On October 9, viewers will meet Lily, the newest friend of Big Bird, Elmo, and the rest of the Sesame Street gang. Lily, a 7-year-old girl Muppet who is “food insecure” (meaning she doesn’t always know where her next meal is coming from), will be introduced on the show to bring awareness to hunger struggles within the US.
The episode, which is sponsored by Walmart and also features country star Brad Paisley and wife Kimberly, is called “Growing Hope Against Hunger” and will share the stories of real-life families to raise awareness as well as bring to light innovation strategies that have helped these families find food, like food drives and assistance programs.
With recent U.S. Department of Agriculture data estimating that 17 million American children have limited or uncertain access to food, with 9.6 million of those children being under 6 years old, the folks at Sesame Street found it incredibly important to deal with such an issue delicately and with a tone of hopefulness.
Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop’s senior vice president for outreach and educational practices, told the New York Times that they carefully considered how to represent such an issue within a child, which ultimately led them to incorporate realistic but empathetic details like the young girl’s style, voice and even mannerisms like her habit of looking at her feet when she speaks.
This is far from the first time that Sesame Street has dealt with social issues, dealing with everything from civil disobedience to problems facing military families. They have also introduced new Muppets over their 42 years on air to bring light to issues, like HIV-positive Kami.
Lily is, as of now, only slated to appear in one episode, but who knows what could happen down the line.