Hungry Students Can’t Learn

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.



Ann Bibby


Linda M.
Linda M7 years ago

great info

gerlinde p.
gerlinde p8 years ago

how sad for the kids having to go hungry in a world were someone will buy a golden toilet seat for millions.

Linda M.
Linda M8 years ago

thanks for the article

Maria H.
Past Member 8 years ago

Our school district offers free or reduced-cost breakfasts and lunches to students who need them, and every year the number of kids receiving them goes up. I'd like to think that catches the majority of them, but it probably doesn't.

Diane H F8 years ago

This is perhaps the greatest reason why we need to re-establish the entitlement to welfare aid. Every argument used in support of welfare "reform" has proved to be false, and we are certainly seeing the consequences of our horrendous "reform". We CAN afford to establish a real, non-punitive welfare system based on the very successful systems in place in the more modern nations. (At it's highest, AFDC used only some 6% of the federal budget). For over 30 years, the sole response to poverty has been a vague promise that, given enough "tax relief", corporations would create a mass of family-supporting jobs. They used that money instead to move our jobs to foreign countries. Not everyone can work, and there aren't nearly enough jobs for all who can. We need to get past the insane notion that hunger and homelessness are merely "lifestyle choices," and establish a legitimate welfare system for all those who are falling behind.

The US has engaged in serial wars-of-choice since the end of WWll. This money needs to be taken out of the war industry, put into human needs, from basic financial support to REAL job creation.

Lionel Mann
Lionel Mann8 years ago

You spend billions of dollars in terrorising the world with your wildcat murderous military aggression, yet you cannot afford to feed your schools' pupils! Is it not time that you organised an efficient state-supported school meals service to ensure that every pupil receives at least one well-balanced nutritional meal daily?
At my last school our gem of a cook provided daily, at very low cost, such meals as Spaghetti Bolognaise, Boeuf Bourgignon, Sweet and Sour Pork, Wiener Schnitzel, Chicken Curry, Hungarian Goulash, Soused Herrings, Moussaka, Paella, as well as a wide variety of salads. Every pupil aged four to eleven and every member of staff ate the dish and dessert of the day. Pupils would go home complaining that their mother's catering was not as good as the school's. Eventually our cook produced a recipe book, sold in aid of school funds, in order to satisfy parent's requests. It does not entail great expense, but only some determination, to organise such a system. I needed to dismiss three incompetent cooks before I found our gem, and to convince the school's governors that good catering is not necessarily expensive. Go to it!

José María Olmos Santana

Pupils mustn´tbe worried about neat they must focus on the studies

Lynne Nofziger
Lynne N8 years ago

Perhaps the government can stop spending so much money on research to determine that many school children are overwieght and spend more money on guarranteeing that healthy food options are available for each and every meal they can eat at school instead of the processed foods they have come to rely on.

Past Member 8 years ago

:( We need to make sure everyone has food!

Bryan P.
Bryan Phernetton8 years ago

Im hungry