Tuesday, September 6, 2011Why don’t children who qualify eat breakfast in school? Seriously…why don’t they? In Minnesota, children who are at risk of being hungry typically don’t eat well when school is not in session. So why wouldn’t they take advantage of the breakfast programs offered in their school? It doesn’t make any sense unless, of course, you look a little closer at the problem.
The problem goes deeper than you might think. There is a whole list of reasons why children in need may not take advantage of breakfasts offered by their school. Perhaps their parents can’t afford it and don’t know their children qualify for free or reduced meals. Maybe some parents are embarrassed to sign their children up for free or reduced meals. Perhaps the children don’t arrive at school early enough to eat breakfast due to bus schedules or their parents’ work schedules. Some children may even avoid eating breakfast at school because they fear being singled out or don’t want to give the impression they don’t have food at home. And the list goes on.
Whatever the reason, we need to find a way to remove barriers and get these children eating. We don’t know all the answers, but as part of Hunger-Free Minnesota, we intend to bring attention to the problem, dig deeper into the problem, and find ways to get more children eating breakfast at school. This is why we need everyone’s help and support. No good can come from children arriving at school and starting their day off hungry.
I once had the opportunity to listen to a medical doctor speak at a hunger summit. She talked about the mentality of just buckling down and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps when things are tough. Then, she went on to discuss how this mentality just doesn’t hold water when you are talking about children and eating. If children don’t receive the food and nutrition they need at the right times in their life, there is no chance to go back and fix it. This is why it is so important to get children in need eating the meals offered at their schools.
Think about it for a minute. If you are hungry, nothing else matters…absolutely nothing. If you haven’t eaten and your stomach is growling, do you really care about reading or math? Are you on your best behavior? Are you listening to your teacher? Or are you focused on when you are going to get to eat?
Giving a child food gives that child the chance to do well and succeed. It is impossible to come up with a plausible reason why it is OK for children not to have enough food to eat. This is why one of the three goals of Hunger-Free Minnesota is to focus on child hunger initiatives, including getting more children to the table to eat school breakfasts and lunches. We need everyone’s help to get children the food they need. Please join us in the fight.