Over 30 million children in the United States go hungry each day, and child hunger greatly affects learning. The Federal Government just announced plans to drastically reduced the funding for school lunch programs, citing the fact that the lack of school lunches does not have a negative impact on student academic performance. This latest “fact” is mind-boggling- the federal government is justifying child hunger en by saying that children don’t need food in order to perform well on standardized tests? Where are our priorities? I can’t stay silent on the importance of feeding all of our kids and because children should never be punished for adult decisions. I was invited by award-winning journalist Jeannette Kaplun of Hispana Global to share my thoughts on this issue- make sure to watch.
If you aren’t up to speed on the official statements regarding the proposed federal budget cuts to meal programs such as school lunches and meals on wheels, check out the article below. (Do I need to make a political statement here about the marginalization of elderly and children? Probably not.)
Child Hunger Is Not Ok
Just in case you are feeling like maybe poor kids and elderly don’t need food like the rest of us, let me tell you a bit about why cutting meal programs is actually not ok. (At all.)
- Child hunger is a human rights issue. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which our very own Eleanor Roosevelt worked tirelessly to put into action, Article 25 says “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” This is not about performance on standardized tests, this is about human dignity for our children.
- Child hunger affects almost half of the United States population. The National Center for Education Statistics most recent data is for 2010-2011, when 48.1% of the US population with school age children qualified for Free and Reduced Lunch Programs through the federal government. For the 2016-2017 school year, a family of 4 with a gross household income of $44,995 qualifies for Free and Reduced Lunch. (Interesting factoid- after 15 years as a public school teacher I made a gross salary of $43,000. I had to leave the classroom because I couldn’t afford quality childcare for my kids with that salary. After FIFTEEN YEARS.)
- Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Maslow kindly and effectively outlined for teachers the importance of food on learning. He states that humans are wired to achieve goals, but they are fundamentally unable to do so if their basic needs aren’t met. Any teacher who has worked with a hungry child knows that child can’t learn, and that we have a responsibility to meet his or her basic needs before even thinking about Common Core standards or standardized testing.
Child Hunger Affects Learning
After 15 years in public education, I saw firsthand the drastic positive change in student concentration after the introduction of a free breakfast program into my school. Why? Because the children weren’t hungry anymore in the morning. Additionally, while vacations and summer breaks for me were often an exciting time, depression and anxiety for many of my students skyrocketed around break time. Breaks from school meant that they most likely wouldn’t know where their next meal was coming from until school was back in session. My daughter’s current school (we live in a food desert and her school is 97% free and reduced lunch students) provides daily breakfast for our entire family, a healthy lunch, and sends her home with an after school snack. For many of her classmates, that snack is dinner because there is no food at home. At the end of the day, this isn’t about politics, it’s about ending child hunger in the United States.
How To Help
- Call your Senators and Congressmen and urge them to vote against this proposed budget cut. If you are like me and you don’t know what to say- download the free 5 Calls app. They give you scripts for these types of calls. Too easy.
- Get involved with your local farm to school program. These programs take donations and provide healthy fresh fruits and vegetables to lunchrooms across the country. Here’s a link to Colorado’s program.
- Google the schools in your area with high FRL (free and reduced lunch) populations. Reach out to those schools to find out how you can help- whether through donating grocery store gift cards, non-perishable food items, or anything else they might need.
- Change the conversation- do not shame any child, ever, for not having enough food. That’s an adult issue- every child has the fundamental human right to eat, play and learn.