Food hardship presents persistent problem for districts
- According to a new report from the Food Research & Action Center, 25.8% of Mississippi households with children are food insecure, a figure that is 7% higher than the national average in 2017, the Hechinger Report reveals.
- Research indicates that child who lack the proper access to food are less healthy, have development delay, exhibit negative behavior, and suffer depression or anxiety — all factors that can affect academic performance.
- The authors of the report encourage states, local governments and non-profits to work together to enroll more families in programs that support nutrition and to address core issues such as unemployment and low wages.
Hunger is a concern for an estimated 14 million children across the nation. This is an important factor in academic achievement because hunger affects the ability to learn. Not only can it cause students to be easily distracted, long-term hunger can affect a child’s health, brain development and behavior.
In fact, a study published earlier this year in the American Educational Research Journal indicated that the timing of when a family receives food stamps impacts test scores. Hunger can also contribute to classroom disruptions, affecting the academic achievement of others as well. In the long run, child hunger affects the nation’s economic development.
Schools and districts are working to address this issue in a variety of ways, often by partnering with non-profit groups to supply food through community food pantries, school food pantries, drop-in centers and weekend backpack programs that allow students to take home food supplies to help tide them over until school starts again. Schools are also recognizing the food that is wasted at schools and are seeking ways to use that food to help students.
Some community members are also pitching in to help. For instance, NBA star LeBron James is helping address food insecurity and other needs at a high poverty school in Akron, Ohio. Members of a school’s PTA or PTO can often be encouraged to help organize help for hungry students, as well. If the community pulls together, students do not have to go hungry for food or learning.
- The Hechinger Report At more than 25 percent, Mississippi’s food hardship rate highest in nation