You know the saying "reduce, reuse, recycle," right? It's about throwing less away so we can prolong the health of the earth and produce less waste. But what if we told you the same exact phrase could help children affected by poverty too?
Don't worry, we'll explain. If you have a child, even if they're grown now, think of how much stuff you went through. They were continually outgrowing the clothes you just bought them, demanding new toys, and only eating certain foods. Once they were through with something, what did you do? Probably gave it to a friend or threw it away, but did you ever think to donate it to charity?
Cradles to Crayons is a 501C non-profit that accepts gently used clothes and children's items to give to underprivileged kids. Learn about them (and their efforts to feed those same kids) below.
The Mission Behind Cradles to Crayons
The official mission of Cradles to Crayons charity reads that they "provide children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive - at home, at school, and play."
They provide those items for free through their network of volunteers and partners within the community.
Pretty impressive, right? The organization is taking real action in the fight against childhood poverty.
About Childhood Poverty
If you're privileged enough to have money or goods to donate, you probably aren't up on the latest statistics on childhood poverty. That's okay - they change regularly and with different geographical regions.
In Chicago, for example, 224,000 children experience poverty, which translates to one in three children. That means there's a high chance that there's a child in need somewhere right under your nose, like at your child's school.
The numbers are slightly better in Philadelphia, a similar-sized North Eastern city. In Philly, one in four children live in poverty and experience its substantial physiological and psychological effects.
Nationally the percentage is 21% - which isn't that much better. (All statistics were taken from cradlestocrayons.com)
The Effects of Childhood Poverty
Childhood poverty affects children in one of three ways: social, psychological, and physiological. None of the effects are separate from each other, as all determinants of health interact.
How Poverty Harms the Body
When kids don't have enough to eat or go long periods without food (food insecurity), their bodies don't develop the way they should. That can lead to being small for their age, having brittle bones that are prone to breakage, and delay or damage the growth of their brain.
The lack of food means that these children are tired more often in school and have trouble learning and paying attention. Some days they may not even have the energy to play with their friends, as their bodies are running on nothing.
In the North East, where Cradles the Crayons runs its programs, many families don't have enough money to pay their heat bill or buy children new jackets that are warm enough for the winter. That constant stress of always being cold weakens their immune response, making it more likely that they get sick, even though their parents can't afford treatment.
These symptoms (and the ones we're about to list) puts them at risk for more chronic illnesses when they're older and give them a shorter life expectancy.
Psychological Effects of Poverty
Children who don't have enough to eat often act out or engage in illegal behaviors in an attempt to get food. They may develop mood disorders and even turn to bullying or stealing to secure food for themselves and their siblings.
The lack of regular nourishment delays the development of the brain and physically impairs it from developing the way it should. That means that they're less mentally prepared for school than their privileged peers, even before you account for the achievement gaps that plague underprivileged communities.
When a child is small for their age, they're more likely to experience physical bullying. Children who have ratty or ill-fitting clothes and wear inappropriate clothing for the weather are more likely to get teased.
Children who are bullied develop a host of other psychological disorders, in which underprivileged children are already at a higher risk of contracting.
How You Can Help Support Cradles to Crayons
To support this worthy cause and this hard-working charity, you can make tax-deductible donations to them via their website. Charities use cash donations for everything from keeping the lights on to buying food for their volunteers, and whatever you donate will be deeply appreciated.
If you'd rather donate some of the old kid's items you have lying around, first ask yourself: is this in good enough shape to be a hand-me-down? Most of the time, it is.
The organization accepts:
- Developmental toys
- And much more.
To learn what they need most right now, visit this page on their website. If you feel inspired to make more of a difference, you can host a drive for them at your local school or church.
Don't want to donate money and don't have any clothes to give? You can buy a "No Love for Hungry Kids" shirt for yourself as a friend. The site shares its profits with the charity and shows the world that you stand up for hunger equality.
Making a Difference
Kid-centered charities are a great way to introduce your children to the act of giving. If you're making an item-based donation, ask them to pick out a few toys they no longer play with to give to kids who need them.
This practice can prompt a lifetime of charity and Cradles to Crayons will be able to serve more underprivileged youth because of them.
Show them how proud you are of their involvement and get them their own "No Love for Hungry Kids" t-shirt, here.