More Kids Heading to School Hungry
We’ve heard for years that children should eat a good breakfast before school to maximize their learning potential. For some kids, though, breakfast isn’t always possible, and hunger in our schools is on the rise.
A new survey released by the national child hunger nonprofit Share Our Strength finds eight in 10 public school teachers reporting that their students come to school hungry once a week or more, compared with just two-thirds of teachers reporting the same in 2011.
Teachers responding to the survey, which polled more than 1,000 educators nationwide, report that “most or a lot” of their students rely on school meals as a primary source of nutrition. Share Our Strength began collecting data on hunger in schools in 2009, and the numbers have steadily increased since then.
Teachers attribute hunger in the classroom to a number of factors, including poverty, an unstable family environment and working parents unable to prepare breakfast or lunch for their school-age kids. They blame hunger for children’s inability to concentrate on schoolwork, behavioral issues and an increased likelihood to report feeling sick. One teacher quoted in the study said that students are unable to ignore their hunger pangs and are “concentrating on how soon until lunch rather than on learning how to read.”
The Share Our Strength survey provides insight into the “first line of defense” against childhood hunger: Teachers spend up to seven hours a day with their students and see firsthand the effects of not getting enough to eat. Most teachers in the survey were so concerned that they reported spending more than $25 of their own money on food each month for hungry students to eat.
As the nation’s economic downturn continues, child hunger has increased. Many believe the solution lies with schools that offer breakfast and lunch programs during the academic year and summer break. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 has allowed these programs to expand and even provided funds for a dinner program that several schools nationwide have begun to implement. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 21 million dinners will be served by schools by 2015.
Learn more about the Share Our Strength survey at www.nokidhungry.org.