What would you do if a hungry child asked for a meal?
A video filmed this spring in Palm Beach County, Florida shows young children approaching complete strangers and asking if they can finish off their leftovers.
It all starts when one little girl approaches an unsuspecting woman who just took a bite of a baguette. "Are you finished with that?"
The woman is evidently surprised by the girl's question. "Excuse me?" she asks, trying to figure out exactly what the girl needs.
Next, we see an older gentlemen eating from a plastic carton, and he too is approached by a little girl who wants to know if he's finished with his food.
"Do you think when you're done I could have it?" she asks, and it takes a minute for him to understand.
The girls go up to several other adults, and their responses once they realize what the girls are asking for are touching. One man takes her to the nearby food stand to buy her something to eat. Others share their food.
And they all exchange worried looks with each other when it becomes obvious the girls are only asking for food because they are hungry.
Although the video was a social experiment staged by the local food bank to demonstrate people's willingness to give, hunger is a reality in South Florida. One in six families from Palm Beach County are food insecure, which means they don't always know where their next meal is coming from.
The experiment proved that when people are approached by a hungry child, they want to give them food. Even if they've never met the child before. It was a powerful tribute to our desire to help.
But what happens when the children aren't standing before us? What happens when we only know them as numbers?
Palm Beach County isn't alone. In 2014, nearly 50 million Americans were classified as food insecure. To put that in context, consider the populations of the 11 biggest cities in the United States: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose and Austin. Combine all the people in each of those cities. Now double that number.
You still don't have the amount of Americans who are hungry in the U.S.
The scope of the problem is known to some Americans. According to Pew, 45 percent of all Americans acknowledge there is a hunger issue. Most of those people help combat domestic hunger like many of us do: by donating to a charity or shelter.
But while charity is important and you should certainly feel good donating to a food bank or a shelter, it does not provide a sustainable long-term solution.
"Charity is nice for some things, but not as a way to feed a nation," Jeff Bridges, a national spokesperson for No Kid Hungry says in the critically acclaimed documentary A Place At The Table."We don't protect our national security through charity, and we shouldn't protect our families and children that way either."
So, what can we do?
As host John Oliver discussed on Last Week Tonight, Americans throwing away the food they buy is one of the key driving forces of hunger.
Close to 40 percent of all the food that's produced in the United States never gets eaten, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That means wasted labor, resources and, of course, food. By the end of a calendar year, Americans have thrown away enough food to fill 730 football stadiums. So while 50 million Americans are going hungry, the rest of Americans are throwing away $165 billion of food each year — enough to feed everyone.
If you're trying to help, some good first steps would be buying groceries more conservatively, eating all the food you buy and donating any that you might not eat to a local shelter.
But we also need to change public policy.
Hunger in America is actually nothing new. In 1983, Ronald Reagan said, "If there is one person in this country hungry, that is one too many." At the time, there were 20 million hungry. Today, there are 50 million.
But the news isn't all bad. It's important to remember that unlike some countries battling hunger, America has the resources to fix it. In fact, in the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson almost did. With a set of policies known as the Great Society legislation, Johnson almost eradicated hunger by doubling the amount of money spent on the poor. Despite his efforts and their successes, the program was decimated in the 1980s.
Now, it seems politicians are beginning to act again. Just last month, a bipartisan anti-hunger bill called the Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act was drawn up. If passed, the bill could help feed 6.5 million children across the globe. Do you want to help? Email or call your state senator and ask them to co-sponsor the bill.
Campaigns like Great Nations Eat and No Kid Hungry are taking real, actionable steps to help combat hunger. By simply signing your name you can add a voice to the people who need it most, and then receive information and updates about opportunities to help rid America of hunger.