An 18-year-old high school student — dealt despair that could have stolen his future — recognized his struggles in the first part of The Inquirer’s Hunger Games series last weekend.

After she dried her eyes, a woman emailed a suggestion that should make the series more effective.

A man’s impassioned email also came with an idea and a request to meet. We had coffee Tuesday morning.

I didn’t need extra motivation, but the passionate, empathetic, and purposeful responses of our readers spur me forward — undeterred by the opposition of anger and ignorance — and confirmed that the series was launched in the right direction.

The Hunger Games series is designed to examine food insecurity and its consequences for high school athletes in and around Philadelphia.

Inquirer Sunday A1 on Nov. 10, 2019
File
Inquirer Sunday A1 on Nov. 10, 2019

Food insecurity is defined by the federal government as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” After the first part appeared on the front page of The Inquirer last Sunday, a coach’s text message revealed a powerful result.

One of his players read it and said, “Man that’s me.”

A text message sent to The Inquirer by a high school coach in response to Part One of the Hunger Games series, revealed the story resonated with one of his athletes.
Aaron Carter
A text message sent to The Inquirer by a high school coach in response to Part One of the Hunger Games series, revealed the story resonated with one of his athletes.

The player would also like to share his story with me. We expect to meet this week, and he will then decide whether he wants to share it with everyone else.

When a woman shared a thoughtful email and a keen observation, she might have changed how the series unfolds.

“I was hoping that at the end there would be a list of schools, organizations, etc., to direct donations to these students,” the email read.

So that the willing and able could help if so inclined, my plan was to present a list of trusted organizations in a future story in the series that will aim to highlight people and places that offer assistance.

During the course of my reporting, I’ve learned that barriers, such as shame, sometimes keep people from seeking assistance. I also plan to explore other barriers.

This reader’s email, however, makes clear that the more-effective decision is to provide resources now, perhaps with each story.

A reader's emailed response to Part One of the Hunger Games series revealed a way to improve the effectiveness of the series moving forward.
Aaron Carter
A reader's emailed response to Part One of the Hunger Games series revealed a way to improve the effectiveness of the series moving forward.

It’s unclear what shape this will take. Chief among our concerns would be to direct readers strictly to the most trustworthy organizations. We also welcome suggestions of organizations to which readers have successfully donated. The list might start small but grow with time.

That evolutionary path is the goal of the mid-50s man I met Tuesday morning in Roxborough. His idea is bold and requires more planning before it can be reported upon, but his passion is worth printing.

Of course, the feedback wasn’t all positive.

“Mr. Carter, I could barely read past the first few sentences of your dumb article that unsurprisingly makes front-page news in one of the most intellectually disabled news publications in America,” one email reads, in part.

First, thanks for continuing to read.

I’d add that after sifting through the name-calling, personal insults, crude language, finger-pointing, and ill-informed viewpoints that followed in this particular email, it is clear that this topic is necessary.

A reader's email expresses anger in response to the first story in the Hunger Games Series.
Aaron Carter
A reader's email expresses anger in response to the first story in the Hunger Games Series.

For some, angrily spewing ignorance is the point, a tacit threat that more will follow if a certain course isn’t changed. Perhaps others simply hope to deepen already existing divides or discount hardships experienced by others.

Those angry few can have their say. That is their right.

Others also have the right to learn about a problem with tentacles that negatively impact young people in ways perhaps not considered often enough in the past.