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Children / School / Teens/Tweens

Survey: Teachers report students ‘regularly’ come to school hungry

When a handful of students consistently showed up for school lethargic and unfocused, second-grade teacher Robin Sutherland discreetly posed a question: Did you have breakfast?

Soon after, she began stopping off at the grocery store to pick up nutrition-packed drinks, or peanut butter and crackers — anything that might give them a protein kick-start.

“Their scores increased, their focus got better,” said Sutherland, who oversees mostly low-income students at Queen Palmer Elementary in Colorado Springs. “It really helped them academically.”

Eventually, she found a church group willing to share the cost — and now a school-wide program takes care of all students who may not get a nutritious breakfast at home.

More than half of Colorado teachers dip into their own pockets to buy food for hungry students, and about one-third spend up to $50 a month, according to a survey released Thursday by a nonprofit group seeking to end childhood hunger.

Share Our Strength, which has launched the No Kid Hungry campaign, rolled out a national report Thursday that shows about 60 percent of teachers report kids in their classroom “regularly” come to school hungry — a figure that matches Colorado’s result.

The survey tabulated responses from nearly 1,100 teachers across the nation — including 193 in Colorado — weighted by age, grade level and region.

Statewide, nearly two-thirds of teachers believe providing food on test days can improve student scores, and up to 95 percent find that breakfast, in particular, can alleviate health issues, spur better academic performance and improve concentration.

In Colorado, among more than 200,000 low-income students who ate a free or reduced-price lunch in 2010-11, only 87,000 participated in the federal School Breakfast Program.

The No Kid Hungry campaign, also supported by Hunger Free Colorado and the governor’s office, seeks to get higher participation in school breakfast programs by helping schools craft ways to incorporate it into their daily schedule.

Across the state, even schools with relatively high low-income populations, as measured by the subsidized lunch program, see variable participation in breakfast programs.

At Wiggins Elementary in northeast Colorado, principal Gary Bruntz said the national and statewide numbers seemed higher than what he sees in his rural school of about 250 students — about half of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

“I’m seeing about 10 percent that come in and get breakfast,” he said of a program that even buses kids in early for the meal.

But at Fairview Elementary in the low-income Sun Valley neighborhood of Denver, where about 97 percent take advantage of the lunch program, principal Norma Giron sees numbers much higher than those reflected in the survey. Last year all but about 10 of the school’s more than 300 students relied on a school breakfast.

Kevin Simpson

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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  1. Those awful teachers! Seeing a big problem that exists, no matter how it came about, and setting out to fix it. Sure, it may be thought of as outside of their official responsibilities, but they will do what’s necessary to help kids learn.

  2. And yet, we see attack after attack on both teachers and low-income subsidized food programs.

    It is ESTABLISHED SCIENCE that someone that has food in their stomach will do a better job cognitively, yet we see attack after attack on the school food programs and even more heinously on the teachers who are reaching into their own pockets to provide an egg or banana to help their poor students survive.

  3. I can’t disagree that it is the parents’ responsibility, or that you shouldn’t have kids if you can’t raise them. HOWEVER, what do we do with under-nourished, under-performing kids TODAY? Throwing platitudes around just exacerbates an existing problem. My hats off to those teachers who actually care enough to feed the hungry

  4. Everyone agrees that it is the parent’s responibiltity.

    That being said….

    What happens WHEN the parents fail?

    Do we write off the children?
    Do we write off the potential benefit that they will be to society in favor of making them a drain on society?

    It is the taxpayers responsibility to make sure that EVERY SINGLE CITIZEN can contribute to the success of the society, thereby reducing or eliminating their drain on society (or even making them the money makers that drive the success of the economy)

    Anyone who writes off a 5 year old child because their parent either can’t or won’t provide a breakfast belongs in HELL to burn for all eternity.

  5. It is not the responsibility of the school system to feed children.

    There are plenty of other social welfare systems to ensure that happens.

    Program creep is a very costly and inefficient symptom of government.

  6. Ignore science all you want, but the school system understands that the ONLY way to make sure that the children succeed is to make sure that they have had food (go figure)

    Teachers actually CARE about the children..again…go figure.
    So although YOU might not care about the children, the teachers and the school system do.

    It SHOULDN’T be their responsibility, however I spend 60% of my time in corp.America cleaning up for other people not doing their job right. Why should the school system be different?

  7. Simply disgusting! We can afford to spend 80 billion a year on wars, fund a mars space program, spend millions on negative TV ads campaigning, but we can’t afford to feed our children … the future of (one of the most) richest and prosperous country on the planet?

  8. We don’t get to choose our parents.
    We can do little to prevent people who are to irresponsible to become parents from having children, but we can embrace and support an innocent child.
    In a country as wealthy as ours no child should go hungry.
    There are many things that I view as a waste of my tax dollars, but feeding a hungry child is not one of them.

  9. Feed the children.
    Do not visit the shortcomings of parents upon the child.
    Break the poverty cycle.

  10. Our tax dollars are already providing their food. It’s called SNAP (food stamps) and WIC. Feeding the kids at school and hoping it goes away isn’t going to solve anything.

    Allowing a child to go hungry and not having proper food in the house falls under child abuse and neglect. But your suggestion of just feeding the kids at school and hoping it goes away isn’t going to solve anything.

    If more tax money is going to be paid out for these kids then it should be mandatory that teachers keep a record on how often children use the breakfast program. If it becomes a chronic issue, where the child is coming to school 10 or so days hungry, then the parents/guardians should be reported to Child Services.

  11. I agree 100%. Just to back up what you said, using the guidelines published by Colorado and the US Govt., the income level that qualifies a family of four (just as an example) for food stamps is $2422 per month. The cut-off for FRL is $2498 per month. That means that most FRL recipients also qualifies for food stamps. What are the parents of these kids doing with the food stamp money if they are not feeding their kids? … 1586542626 … 2-7036.pdf

  12. You think feeding kids breakfast is expensive? Maybe check the cost of your suggestion of reporting them to Child Services. Just the cost of a social worker visit, let alone foster care. If cost is your concern, adding more kids to the overburdened state foster care system doesn’t make any sense over providing a breakfast.

  13. As parents, making sure the kids eat breakfast before leaving for school should not be overlooked. This is where kids will get the energy they will need throughout the day. What breakfast meals can you suggest to parents who do not have lots of time to prepare this very important meal of the day?

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