10/10/2011 11:07 BST | Updated 10/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Impoverished Sesame Street Puppet Shows Life On Breadline

As a reflection of harsh economic realities, Sesame Street has introduced a new character, Lily, whose defining feature is her hunger. Unlike the Cookie Monster, Lily does not have the luxury of cookie cravings.

Her parents are poverty-stricken and unable to feed her.

The "hungry muppet" made her debut on Sunday in a special prime-time one hour programme. The special, Growing Hope Against Hunger, told the stories of real-life families who are going hungry, alongside the muppet Lily.

In the episode, Lily told Elmo how her parents had been hit by the economic downturn while showing him around a soup kitchen.

Lily explains to Elmo the stigma of poverty: "A lot of the time people don't talk about it, but once you do, you realise you just feel better, and people can find comfort in each other."

The special was inspired by the US Department of Agriculture's figures that 17 million children go hungry because their families are unable to afford basic food. Melissa Dino, a producer of the show told Newsweek magazine that it was "really staggering" that levels of uncertainty over food for children were so high.

The character provoked some derision from the American right. A blog that is popular amongst conservatives, called The Blaze, announced, "Uh-oh. It's time to redistribute the Cookie Monster's cookies!".