by Dmitriy Synkov (image courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture)
While some would say the nation is rebounding from the recession, the gains of the recovering economy have not been equally felt throughout the country, especially for vulnerable families and children. Children today, in fact, are more likely to be receiving food stamps than they were before the recession.
One in five children receive food stamps today — that’s 16 million kids, compared to 9 million in 2007, according to recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau. Nearly half (47%) of those children on food stamps come from single-mother homes. Though significantly smaller in number, children receiving food stamps in both married and unmarried parent homes have also increased, doubling since 2007.
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Billy Shore, CEO of Share Our Strength, an anti-child hunger advocacy group, believes that one reason more kids are receiving food stamps is that the “program has done a better job at reaching those who need it.” While it’s positive that needy children are able to access necessary benefits, said Shore, this also shows the reality that while many have “participated in America’s economic recovery in the past few years, many more have not. For many families, there has been no path out poverty.”
According to Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, three out of five teachers have children in their classroom who regularly come to school hungry and four out of five of those teachers say these children come to school hungry at least once a week.
Amanda Price, a second-grade teacher at Forrest Heights STEM Academy in Little Rock, Ark., has witnessed first-hand the plight of hungry students. “So many students struggle to be successful in classrooms because they can’t manage to think or process information while they’re so hungry all the time,” she says. Price lists low achievement and behavior problems as the two biggest side-effects. “They go hand-in-hand as the biggest factors of student hunger,” she adds.
Fortunately, Price has also seen solutions that help curb classroom hunger. After moving to a school district that offered breakfast-in-the-classroom programs, she immediately saw a shift in students’ behavior. “I could definitely see the change in the kids, in their behavior, their attitude, their successes and achievements.”
For a program that takes little time, it has a large impact on student success, says Price.
The students come in, they grab their breakfast, they take their seats, and within the first 10 minutes are usually done and go on with their school work. It’s so nice to have the assurance that my kids are fed.”
Breakfast-in-the classroom programs such as the one in Price’s school district are useful tools to help curb child hunger, according to NEA’s Health Information Network (HIN). Since 2010 HIN has assisted in implementing breakfast programs in 13 states and 15 high-need school districts as a member of Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom (PBIC). Most recently, PBIC received a $5 million grant to provide breakfast for 25,000 additional students.