Feeding Hungry Students

By Kelli J. Windsor

Students today are asked to balance a great deal -- perform on tests, engage in the classroom, and participate in extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, in a society in which food is readily available, a large number of our students are coming to school hungry. That makes it harder for these students to meet all the demands and succeed.

School leaders can play a key role in solving this dilemma. Teachers and principals agree -- more than eight out of 10 teachers and principals say school boards are critical to promoting school nutrition programs and ending childhood hunger.

“Hunger In Our Schools: Teachers Report 2013,” recently released by Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, finds that three out of four K-8 public school teachers and principals say they see kids who regularly come to school hungry because they aren’t getting enough to eat at home.

One out of every five kids in the U.S. struggles with hunger. Teachers and principals see this hunger firsthand in their schools, reporting overwhelmingly that students have trouble learning when they’re focused on their empty stomachs instead of on their lessons. Hungry students -- teachers say, and research supports -- lack concentration and motivation. They also struggle with poor academic performance, behavior problems, and health issues.

“When I volunteered in the classroom, you could tell some students might be hungry. They weren’t focused or staying on task, and snack time couldn’t come fast enough,” says Deborah Seelinger, a member of the school board in Minnesota’s Rochester Public Schools.

Christopher Barclay, president of the school board for the largest district in Maryland, Montgomery County Public Schools, also has seen the problem firsthand. “You see kids coming to school who haven’t had breakfast. They’re frustrated, unhealthy, and unhappy. These students have a hard time focusing on schoolwork because they are distracted by their personal emotional needs.”

As pressure increases around standardized testing and Common Core State Standards, we are asking our students to achieve more every day. That means we can’t let them fall behind. Ensuring our students start the day with a healthy breakfast can help fuel them for achievement and success. 

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