In Karen Ande’s exhibit called ‘Who’s Hungry? You Can’t Tell by Looking!’ it’s hard to tell which children are food insecure.
In a land of plenty like Silicon Valley it’s hard to fathom that 25 percent of children go to bed hungry.
But that’s the startling fact that a new exhibit featured at the Mercy Center in Burlingame called “Who’s Hungry? You Can’t Tell by Looking!” hopes to bring to light. A recent Centers of Disease Control survey found that nationally 20 percent of children are food insecure. Karen Ande, a San Francisco based documentary photographer, has designed her exhibit to provide information about the prevalence of childhood hunger in northern California.
“I was really appalled by the CDC surveys,” Ande said. “Their tummies are filled with not the most healthful food. Sitting here in Silicon Valley — the high-tech world — it was appalling and horrible and that drew me in.”
Of the 20 children photographed in this exhibit, 10 screened positive for food insecurity and 10 came from food secure families. Food insecurity is defined as the lack of money to buy adequate food to feed one’s family.
The photography project is the brainchild of Dr. Lucy Crain, who was looking for ways to encourage physicians to screen for food insecurity as well as raise public awareness about the issue. Crain asked Ande to take on the project to develop a photo-educational display demonstrating that it’s difficult to tell by just looking that a child is hungry. Some may even be obese due to excessive low quality food intake.
“Children aren’t identified as to which group they belong,” Ande said. “The only people who know which children are food insecure are the parents and the photographer. See if you can figure it out. If you try you may find that you can’t tell if a child is hungry by looking.”
Ande, who first picked up a camera as a little girl, began capturing the images in the exhibit in San Francisco neighborhoods, family homes and at the Tenderloin Health Fair back in October 2013.
“What’s happening is really kind of a symptom of a lack of awareness in people that this kind of thing can go on and it’s acceptable in a country that’s very wealthy,” Ande said. “A lot of wealth is being concentrated in the upper 2 percent of people; when children don’t get enough to eat it affects them for the rest of their lives.”
Ande wanted the exhibit at the Mercy Center, run by the Sisters of Mercy, because people are there for spiritual retreats and are looking at the big picture, she said.
“I’m hoping to wake up a sense of compassion and feeling we’re all in this together in this crazy planet,” she said.
Dr. Crain, a retired pediatrician of 40 years, is a member of California Chapter 1 Child Advocacy Committee, said doctors need to screen better for hunger and in a scientifically evidence-based way. Crain is taking on a larger Who’s Hungry? project that encourages pediatricians to identify food insecure families using two screening questions from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Household Food Security Scale: 1. Within the past 12 months, we worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more. 2. Within the past 12 months, the food we bought just didn’t last, and we didn’t have money to get more.
“Just like we screen for high blood pressure,” Crain said.
Crain and other are now working with San Francisco and Marin food banks, CalFresh and Second Harvest Food Bank.
The exhibit is on display at the Mercy Center Art Gallery through Dec. 31. The Gallery is located at 2300 Adeline Drive in Burlingame and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit mercy-center.org.
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