Lily the hungry Muppet reflects American reality

 

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The Independent Online

She's got pink hair, she's terribly cute and she's hungry. In a bid to reflect the harsh realities of recession-era America, the makers of the nation's favourite children's TV show have introduced a new puppet. Her name is Lily and her chief character trait is that she lives on the breadline.

The so-called "hungry Muppet" was introduced to Sesame Street viewers last night, on a special episode of the programme aimed at educating the public about the growing proportion of US families suffering from what sociologists term "food insecurity".

Lily began the programme showing Elmo around an urban food pantry, the modern-day equivalent of a soup kitchen. Her parents had been hit hard by the economic downturn, she explained, so they had recently begun using the facility to help fill their larder.

"One of the most important things for me was not feeling like I was alone," Lily said, regarding her experience visiting the pantry. It provided such an important service that she recently decided to work there as a volunteer.

Lily's debut came on a special prime-time edition of Sesame Street called "Growing Hope Against Hunger". It was inspired by figures compiled by the US Department of Agriculture which estimated that 17 million American children, half of them under six, go hungry because their families cannot afford sufficient food.

Lily was designed to persuade young viewers to empathise with their less fortunate peers.

Melissa Dino, a producer of the programme, told Newsweek magazine: "The message we give for young children in the programme is to be a friend. We knew we wanted a character who was a child for children in the audience who had experienced this and would be reassured."

There are no plans for Lily to join the cast of Sesame Street full time, but her appearance follows in a long tradition of characters on the programme attempting to educate young children about pressing social issues.

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