California Educator

April 2017

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Food insecurity and school readiness By Dina Martin O ne in four children in California faces food insecurity, and no one knows that better than educators. They've seen how it plays out in their classrooms and schools. Although recent media attention has focused on the rising number of c ol l ege stud ents w ho are food insecure, hunger has an even greater impact on chil- dren, because children are still growing. Studies have shown that children who are malnour- ished have: • Poor social functioning. • Poor math scores. • More tardiness. • More grade repetition. • More absenteeism. • More anxiety. • More aggressive behavior. • More visits to psychologists. Children's HealthWatch reports that food insecurity is tied to iron-deficiency anemia in young children, which negatively influ- ences development of basic motor and social skills. "Food insecurity predicts poor performance during a child's first years at school, which has implications for future academic success." Dorothy Chen-Maynard, coordinator of the Nutrition and Food Sciences Program in the Department of Health Science and Human Ecology at CSU San Bernardino, agrees and adds that hunger c a n a l s o h a v e d e v a s t a t i n g effects on older students. "Obviously, sustained hun- ger affects brain development i n th e f i r st f iv e ye a r s ," s ay s Ch en-Maynard , a California Faculty Association member who serves on CTA State Coun- cil's Student Support Services Committee. "Studies show that high school students — 15- and 16-year-olds — have more depressive dis- orders and more suicides," linked in part to hunger and poverty. Joleen Carlson, child nutrition services director who oversees the kitchen in the 1,000-student Clement Middle School in Redlands, has witnessed the impact of hunger on students. "It shows up in the way they behave. ey are often tired and cranky. Many don't get to school on time or have a lot of absences," says Carlson, of the Redlands Education Support Professionals Association. Schools try to cope Carlson's school attempts to address the issue by offering breakfast and lunch, as well as supper to students in the after- school program . The breakfast ser vice offers cereal, a hot item, pastry or yogurt p ar fait b efore scho ol . Stud ents in th e after-school program may receive a bagel, an "uncrustable" sandwich or pizza, along with fruit and milk to see them through the school day. It's not unusual for school coun- selors to send students down to Carlson during the day for something to eat. Althou g h scho o l s in Californi a pro- vide breakfast and lunch to qualifying students, the school breakfast program h a s r e m a i n e d u n d e r u t i l i z e d , l a r g e l y because it is often offered before school starts. As a result, some 2 million of the st at e's mo st v uln erabl e stud ents st ar t their day without breakfast. Organiza- tions that fight child hunger, including Share Our Strength and California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA), maintain that Where the Greatest Hunger Is Children living in food insecure households, by county Sources: Feeding America, "Map the Meal Gap 2016" (data); Kidsdata (map) The Hungry Child No Data 27.9% to 33.0% 23.4% to 27.8% 20.3% to 23.3% 16.1% to 20.2% 38 teaching & learning Dorothy Chen-Maynard H U N G R Y S T U D E N T S

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