Back in the days before peanut allergies and hepatitis A scares, I was the teacher who brought homemade treats for her class. I made chocolate chip cookies by the dozen and decorated Christmas treats for the last day of school before the winter break.
As time went on and homemade goodies were banned in favor of pre-packaged edibles with too many preservatives and too much sodium and fat, it became apparent to me that these once-in-a-while foodstuffs were more than treats for some of my students. More and more I was looking out onto a classroom of hungry children.
Requests for lunch money or change for the snack machine came frequently and queries about nutritional intake led to startling discoveries about just how little some kids had to eat on any given day.
By the time I was teaching in the drop out prevention program, hungry students were a given. Even though I was a widowed mother on a tight budget, my weekly grocery list always included snacks that I would keep handy in a desk drawer. Granola and fruit bars were a staple and sometimes the only breakfast or lunch some of my students had.
So in addition to being the teacher who always had a spare spiral or pen/pencil for any student who asked – whether they were mine or not, I became the teacher who had food for those in need of something to take the edge off a rumbly tummy.
This isn’t strange. More and more teachers are reporting that they’ve fed students. In fact 63% of all teachers have reported buying food for students.
With all the talk of reform, where do the basic needs fit in? There is plenty of research on brain development that points to a direct connection between learning and proper nutrition, but the fact that more and more children are falling into poverty and going hungry or homeless or without medical care is somehow left out of a debate that seems to think that test scores and teacher accountability should be the focus.
What do you think? How can we, and our government, make a dent in this crisis? Are there solutions in your community from which others could learn? Please let us know here – we’ll pass the info on through another post.