Sunday, February 15, 2015

No Hungry Kid

In a perfect world, there would never be a child who goes to school hungry. In todays society, we constantly hear about "literacy", "Common Core", and "test scores". What about "hunger"? Perhaps combatting hunger should be our biggest concern when it comes to education. How can we expect children to do well learning, when they can only think about how hungry they are? However, this conversation is actually deeper than physical hunger, Children who regularly do not get enough to eat, combined with poverty, can lead to delayed brain development which then impacts a child's ability to learn. On top of this, children who experience chronic, hunger, do not get the right amount of vitamins and minerals which may stop them from attaining developmental milestones. They can also develop iron-deficiency anemia which can directly link to an inability to focus, retain material, and learn. Children who are hungry can be irritable which can lead to behavior problems and again a lack of being able to focus on good academic instruction. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 40% of households live below the poverty level. In many of these households children are affected by hunger.
    Schools try to do the right thing when it comes to hunger, but what is the right thing? Since 1966 most schools in America have had a breakfast program but even this doesn't stop hunger due to a multitude of other factors:

  • First is the friend factor as soon as a child enters school his/her friends gather around and if they are not also eating breakfast then catching up with friends takes precedence over eating breakfast for this child.
  • Next is peer pressure kids are not always kind. Sometimes those who need to go to the cafeteria to eat breakfast are teased by those who do not. Adults try to monitor teasing but the truth is, teasing can happen anytime during the day and since there are more students than adults, children always find the time and place to tease others. Sometimes kids say things that are not meant as teasing such as, "Why would you want to eat that stuff?" Nobody wants to admit that they are hungry so they choose not to eat rather than admit they had no food at home.
  • Getting to school on time often interferes with a child eating a nutritious breakfast either in or out of school. First, for those who eat at home, there are always days when a child is running late and skips out the door without breakfast. Some kids just don't feel like eating when they first get up in the morning so they too leave home without eating.
  • School rules altough developed with good intentions can also interfere with kids eating breakfast. Most schools do not allow food or drinks in the classroom. My school included! So sometimes students must wait as long as five hours until lunch! This is agonizing! I can attest to the point that the class period right before lunch is very difficult to keep students engaged!
  • Medications, traditionally medications for ADHD make children lose their appetite. The medication allows for learning because the child can focus but may reduce the amount of nutrition the child receives throughout the day.
     So, what can teachers do?  We obviously can't stop poverty, hunger, or even high stakes testing, but we can help. I allow drinks and supply healthy snacks everyday to my students! Yes, admittedly I'm a rule breaker! I teach special education. I teach kids who many of them do take medication and many of them have difficult, impoverished home lives.  Do I allow these woes to be a crutch for them, absolutely not! They need to be responsible for their learning, engagement, and behavior just like everybody else! I am however human! I get thirsty and hungry and I have no excuses! So, I provide them with a nutritious snack everyday. Each day I place one nutritious snack on everybody's desk. Sometimes they are even provided with homemade snacks like banana bread, or apple crisp! They are allowed to bring in a drink as long as it is not soda or an energy drink.  If they do not have a drink, I give them a cup to get water from the water fountain. They can eat their snacks when ever they want to as long as it doesn't interfere with their classwork. Honestly, their snacks basically go unnoticed because they all have one! It's fair!
   Not all teacher's have the luxury of having the same students all day. My suggestion: Keep a stash of healthy snacks in your classroom that are quick to eat and low in sodium and sugar. Your students will feel energized and refocused.
    Staying in touch with parents is important too. Ask parents to not give their children their medications until after they have eaten breakfast if their medication decreases their appetite. Often, students who do eat free and reduced breakfast can set up an arrangement with the school nurse to take their  medication after breakfast in his/her office. Also,  for parents who are having financial difficulties and have trouble feeding their family tell them about school polices on free and reduced breakfasts and lunches and community programs such as food pantries and soup kitchens. Parents want to do what's best for their children.
     In today's society, educators wear many hats. During the school days our students are our responsibility and what ever we can do to help them become intelligent, informed, productive citizens is what we must do. Please go to to see what you can do.

Just in!!!

Two Hour Delay - Tuesday, February 24, Due to Inclement Weather
No AM Pre-K
No Breakfast Served....breaks my heart. Sorry kids, due to the weather, you may not have