Moral Low Ground

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Survey: 61% of U.S. Teachers Buy Food for Hungry Students

A new  survey of 638 US public school teachers has shed light on how our education system is dealing with the national epidemic of childhood hunger. With 1 out of every 6 Americans living in poverty (nearly half of all black children are poor) and with 1 out of every 7 of us relying upon government food assistance, it’s no secret that we’ve got a major problem with childhood hunger. But numbers and statistics can only tell us so much. Our nation’s teachers often find themselves on the front lines of the battle against childhood hunger and what they tell us, combined with numbers and statistics, paints a pretty alarming picture.

According to the survey and USA Today, two-thirds of the teachers (grades K-8) surveyed said they had students who regularly came to school hungry. Nearly the same number (63%) said that they problem has gotten worse over the past year. The problem is truly nationwide. “It’s really telling to see how severe the problem is,” Bill Shore, founder and director of Share Our Strength, a non-profit organization fighting childhood hunger, told USA Today. “It’s not isolated to certain urban and rural areas… it’s really happening across the board.”

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of the teachers surveyed said that many children depend on meals served by schools as their main source of nutrition. A shocking 61% said they themselves bought food to serve to hungry students. Former Florida elementary school teacher Stacey Frakes says kids in her classes would sit with their heads down on their desks, nearly in tears from the hunger that tormented their little bellies. She kept simple snacks to feed them because learning was close to impossible when “they are thinking about their next good meal,” she said.

According to USA Today, 11.6 million children across the country are fed school breakfast every day, with 74% of the meals served at no cost to the student. There is a record demand for these school meals, and in some locales nearly all students from low-income homes are enrolled in breakfast programs. Still, many kids don’t take advantage of breakfast programs because they arrive at school to late or because of the stigma attached to “welfare” by a society that scorns the poor and counts personal financial success as a more noble value than helping people in need. Until that changes, the richest country in the world will continue to have to deal with increasing numbers of children who don’t have enough to eat.

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2 Comments

  1. Ms. MFebruary 23, 2011 at 11:13 amReply

    At my school in Brooklyn 100% of our students got free lunch and free breakfast. While there was no stigma in this because ALL of the students got free meals, many students, as the article noted, didn’t get breakfast because they arrived late. Snack time was the biggest issue because kids had to bring their own. Either kids didn’t bring anything or they brought chips, candy, and flavored sugar water. Teachers did buy snack for those students who had nothing. The last year or two that I was at the school teachers started asking kids to bring $1 for snacks for the year and then would go to Costco with $25 and buy things like animal crackers or pretzels in bulk to last the year. Teachers rationed out something like 5 pretzels per day so all kids could have snack.

    • Moral Low GroundFebruary 23, 2011 at 11:39 amReplyAuthor

      Unbelievable that A) 100% of kids in a school need free meals, and B) that you had to dig into your own pocket (and we all know how wealthy teachers are) to feed your students. Thank heavens for teachers like you!

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