A new study was released this week on the current state of childhood hunger in America and the results are heartbreaking. The study is based on input from 1,200 teachers and principals of kindergarten through eighth grade, and highlight the appalling lack of basic nutrition with America’s youth.
The report, “Hunger In Our Schools: Teachers Report 2013,” by Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. Josh Wach, chief strategy officer for Share Our Strength, says, “Childhood hunger is a problem that is in every state. “It manifests itself in every classroom, playground, and backyard. It’s a problem that isn’t as visible to the naked eye as other social problems are, but it has a huge effect on our country’s ability to thrive.”
Teachers who participated in the survey report that they spend an average of $37 a month ($300 per school year) of their own money buying food for hungry students.
One teacher in Florida said, “One of my students had a horrible time focusing in class. I began to think that he just didn’t care, so I pulled him aside and asked what was going on. He began to cry and told me that he couldn’t help it; he was just so hungry. It turns out the only meal he ate every day was his free lunch at school. His family couldn’t afford breakfast or dinner.”
Princess Moss, an elementary school teacher from Virginia and National Education Association Executive Committee member, says. “I would always keep snacks in my class for students that were hungry and who were having trouble concentrating during instructional time.”
The problem goes beyond just skipping a meal. A hungry child cannot focus and learn. 17.5 percent of students perform better on standardized math scores when they eat breakfast. Twenty percent are more likely to graduate high school. Some teachers reported that students focus only on Tuesday and Wednesday. That’s because on Monday they have gone all weekend without much food. By Thursday, they were becoming anxious again about a weekend without being fed.
From the study:
Nine in 10 educators said breakfast was the “key to turning the tides on hunger and achievement.”
Less than half of students (21 million) who receive a free school lunch eat a free breakfast. Of these students,those who are offered free breakfast may deny it because of the isolation and self-consciousness they feel receiving a free breakfast in the cafeteria when many of their peers do not.
How do we solve this problem? The study points out that there has been success when the stigma of receiving a “free” breakfast is removed:
Instead of eating in a cafeteria, breakfast should move to the classroom and connect kids to healthy meals and social inclusion.
Some schools have already adopted this model, and change is happening. Educators report that 76 percent of students were more alert, and 57 percent had better attendance. Disciplinary issues dropped and students had fewer visits to the school nurse. Since 2011, these schools have seen an increase of 28 million school breakfasts served.
Wach explains that the childhood hunger doesn’t exist because there isn’t enough food, “Rather kids aren’t getting access to food. Everybody can play a role, a corporation, individuals, and state and local government in helping break down the barrier to get kids the resources they need to grow and thrive.”
“Part of the problem is many folks are not aware that this is such a huge issue and that one in five students struggle with hunger,” Wach said. “But everyone can do something in their community to eradicate child hunger.”
One Change, Many Benefits
Schools who have implemented a free breakfast program for hungry students report the following results:
- 76% saw an improvement in student alertness during morning lessons
- 57% saw increased attendance
- 55% saw a decrease in visits to the school nurse
- 54% saw a reduction in discipline problems
How you can help:
Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is creating the first-ever map to document how breakfast is served in U.S. schools. Volunteers call up a school, ask a few questions about breakfast and add the information to an online database. You can use the map to locate schools that participate in a free breakfast program, and those who lack the resources (or knowledge) to provide children with the most important meal of the day.
[From: Take Part]