Any teacher will tell you that nutrition is a basic necessity for students, just like textbooks and pencils. And this is confirmed by the data. Kids who eat school breakfast miss less school, do better in math and have higher test scores and graduation rates.
We also know that hunger isn’t just a growling stomach; eating breakfast has real, powerful effects on kids.
A new edition of No Kid Hungry’s “Hunger In Our Schools” report, surveyed three groups on the front lines of childhood hunger — families, teachers and kids themselves — and found alarming statistics about the challenges for those already facing hunger and the harm posed by just the threat of hunger itself.
As teachers, you know this. Three out of four educators (76 percent) surveyed said they see students who regularly come to school hungry.
The report found that for many teens, in addition to the incredible amount of pressure they already face from juggling schoolwork and extracurricular activities, to completing college applications and managing social pressures, all too many are also dealing with an invisible layer of stress that comes from shouldering the burden of hunger.
While many parents try to shield their children from their financial strain, kids are not only aware of their families’ hardships — they also worry about it. And these findings are common across families where nearly two-thirds of low-income parents (64 percent) who said a single unplanned expense would make it difficult to feed their families.
Hunger in Our Schools sheds light on some painful statistics and heartbreaking stories from children and families. Federal nutrition programs that already operate in schools can make sure kids have access to food when they need it, regardless of zip code, age, time of year or time of day. The simple act of feeding kids a healthy school breakfast can have a dramatic impact on their health as well as their academic and economic futures.
Programs like school breakfast are designed to close the gap between kids who have enough to eat and those who don’t. These programs are only successful, however, when they actually reach the kids who need them.
Unfortunately, barriers like when and how it’s served, or stigma around needing the meals, are keeping too many from accessing school breakfast in its traditional method. As a result, only a fraction of the students who may need this meal are unable to access it. When schools make breakfast part of the school day, serving it once school starts instead of before, it reaches more of the kids who need it.
Despite the research that shows eating breakfast has a profound effect on students, there is still a large gap between the number of kids who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals at school, and those who are actually accessing these meals.
The No Kid Hungry campaign is working to bridge that gap here across the country. Thanks to the commitment of teachers and principals, parents and community leaders, along with No Kid Hungry’s national and local partners across the country, three million more kids are eating school breakfast since the campaign’s launch in 2010.
No Kid Hungry is working in schools, in districts, and in state capitols across the country to enact effective policies that make sure that all kids are getting the healthy food they need. As teachers, you’re on the front lines of this. So this school year, find out how your school serves breakfast. Talk to cafeteria and nutrition staff and your principal. Encourage kids to eat breakfast and parents to return their meal participation paperwork. Share observations about impact with others in your school and your network to create change. Make sure that all kids in your community have the access they need to school meals so that they can start the day happy, healthy and ready to learn.
As we all know, kids can’t be hungry to learn when they’re hungry to eat.
Something as simple as school meals can create transformative, positive change in America. When our children are able to do better in school thanks to nutritional meal programs, that leads to greater job-readiness and self-sufficiency after high school. These students, therefore, are set on a path to become less likely to struggle with hunger as adults.
No kid should have to go through school hungry. Let’s make sure that all our children have the fuel they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
About Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign
No child should go hungry in America, but one in six kids will face hunger this year. Using proven, practical solutions, No Kid Hungry is ending childhood hunger today by ensuring that kids start the day with a nutritious breakfast and families learn the skills they need to shop and cook on a budget. When we all work together, we can make sure kids get the healthy food they need. No Kid Hungry is a campaign of national anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength. Join us at NoKidHungry.org.