- A study published this month in the American Educational Research Journal indicates that student scores on state-administered tests were highest about three weeks after families received their monthly food stamp distribution, Chalkbeat reports.
- Duke University researchers who conducted the study expected to see a spike in test scores immediately after benefits were distributed when food supplies at home were the highest; however, the modest, but significant improvement in test scores came mid-month instead.
- Authors of the study posit that these results reflect the benefit of lower stress levels related to two weeks of greater food security.
This study adds to what educators already know about how outside factors affect school performance. Long-term nutrition is clearly important to student health and well-being; and food insecurity causes stress on students that could impact their focus and concentration. However, school-based programs that seek to provide more complete wrap-around services to students have had mixed and inconclusive results and produced only slight gains when they were found. More direct results have come from anti-poverty programs not directly tied to schools.
While schools area primarily charged with educating students, and education is a path out of poverty, teachers and school leaders come face-to-face every day with children who are coping with food insecurity and other barriers to learning. Addressing lunch shaming issues in one way to lessen the burden. Some schools are looking at ways to both address food waste issues and provide additional food resources for children at the same time. And other schools are opening “drop-in” centers to help meet student needs in a low-key way.