This morning as I was driving to work, I heard a radio advertisement for the Capital Area Food Bank. I’m no stranger to this organization since just a few weeks ago the Office of Continuing Education, with some helps from our colleagues in other departments, donated over 300 lbs. of goods. It was a proud moment for our department to be able to help others enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.
The advertisement got me thinking about hunger in a different way. It said “Three meals a day shouldn’t be a choice.” At first I didn’t understand what that meant but the ad went on to explain that families in the DC area have to choose skip breakfast or lunch in order to put dinner on the table. We’ve all see the most recent McDonald’s ads claiming that you shouldn’t “Be a Skipper.” For too many DC area families, it’s not a choice, it’s a necessity.
When I first moved to DC it shocked me to realize that students in need got lunches provided for them at school. I was fortunate and grew up in a town where families had plenty to eat. I shouldn’t have been surprised though since forms of a school lunch program have been around since 1853. The realization made me sad but also glad that these kids didn’t have to go through the day watching others eat while they go hungry. The DC Healthy Schools Act has taken it even further to provide children breakfast and promote a healthy lifestyle.
The DC Healthy Schools Act seems like a great solution. Most teachers in the DC area know how difficult it is to teach a student who can’t focus because they are starving in class. But it has also added some school challenges. Administration, Faculty, and Staff have all had to deal with students who tease those who need to participate in the program.
A few months ago, I sat in on our class EDU 958 – Enhancing the Physical Education Program, K-8. The students were talking about Field Day and how they could improve it. One of the teachers who was a student in the course said that his biggest challenge is finding a location for the Field Day close enough to the school so that students on the lunch program are able to eat that day. He said that for past Field Days if he were unable to get students back to the building for lunch, he would buy and bring brown bag lunches for them out of his own pocket. I was touched by this man’s generosity to bring a fun Field Day to all his students.
The DC area was lucky to avoid lengthy school closings after Hurricane Sandy. Most counties only needed to close two days. But what happened to students on the meal program those days? Did their families have to make a choice? What child can focus on their homework when they haven’t had anything substantial to eat all day?
For teachers, sometimes it seems that hungry students can be a problem that’s out of their control. The Office of Continuing Education offers some really great courses in Health including Health and Physical Safety for Educators, Childhood Obesity: Strategies for Prevention, and Health and Nutrition for Children. Even if we can’t all be like that Physical Education teacher who reached into his wallet to feed his students on field day, teachers can be informed about the issues and the resources available to students in need.
What else can you do as a teacher to help your students succeed when faced with hunger?