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The Breakfast Club: Teachers Buying Food for Hungry Students
A new national survey shows that if anyone knows the importance of a healthy breakfast, and sees the impact of childhood hunger, it's the teachers in the trenches of American classrooms who are giving their students food to help them make it to lunchtime, USA Today reports.
Every day, 65 percent of America's teachers regularly see kids who come to school hungry because they aren't getting enough to eat at home, and more than eight in 10 see this happening frequently, according to a report from by Share Our Strength, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger.
Researchers surveyed 638 public school teachers across the country in grades kindergarten through eight. They found teachers are among the first line of defense for students who regularly come to school hungry and are spending an average of $25 a month to buy breakfast for their students. Seventy-five percent of teachers also are referring kids to reduced-priced meal programs and 49 percent say they help hook parents up with resources in the school.
"It's really telling to see how severe the problem is," Bill Shore, founder and director of Share Our Strength, tells USA Today. "It's not isolated to certain urban and rural areas, but it's really happening across the board."
Teachers agree that kids who eat breakfast concentrate better through the day, the survey says, noting that 65 percent of kids rely on school meals as their primary source of nutrition.
Seventy-five percent of teachers attribute students coming to school hungry to "unstable home environments," 55 percent says parents just don't have enough money to buy the food and 45 percent say there just isn't any food in the homes, the survey reports.
Stacey Frakes, who taught third, fourth and fifth grades at County Central School in Madison, Fla., and now works as an instructional coach for an elementary school, tells USA Today kids would sometimes come to her class, put their heads on their desks and almost cry.
She says when she asked them what was wrong, they'd tell her they hadn't had any breakfast. She kept peanut butter crackers on hand to give them, and once gave a student her own lunch. Students would ask, "What time is lunch? Is it lunchtime yet?' " she tells the newspaper.
Nationwide, breakfast is served to 11.6 million school children; 74 percent of the breakfasts are free and 8.8 percent are at reduced price, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USA Today reports.
The Dairy Council of California says breakfast is the most important meal of the day and reports that kids who eat breakfast do better on standardized tests than their poorly nourished peers.
Children's hunger has both physical and pyschosocial symptoms, according to the Dairy Council. Physical consequences of hunger include stomach pain, headache, muscle fatigue and sleepiness. Complaints such as anxiety, nervousness, anger, fidgeting, hostility, indecisiveness, confusion and unhappiness are also common.
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