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Virginia has a dark secret. Hidden in every neighborhood and every school are kids who aren't getting enough to eat.
In neighborhoods across the state, parents are forced to make the decision between giving their children enough healthy food to eat and paying their bills.
With about one in six kids in Virginia at risk of going hungry (according to Feeding America), most of us have met one of these kids even if we didn't know it.
Too often, these children and their families remain unseen. The stigma of being labeled "poor" or a "bad parent" keeps them from talking about their struggles and sometimes even from seeking help.
In this day and age, there is no excuse for us to allow any child to go hungry. Doing so denies them the opportunity to grow up healthy and learn in school. Hungry kids struggle to learn, and kids who don't learn also struggle later in life.
There is no smarter investment than investing in our children. We need to start talking about this problem. People need to know how many kids face going to school hungry and how important programs like free and reduced-price school meals are for giving children from low-income families the same opportunities as other children.
Unless we put more emphasis on these programs, we will continue to deny children the ability to grow up healthy and strong--which is something none of us can afford.
The writer is a state organizer with the Virginia Fair Share Education Fund.