School Pantries Giving Kids a Chance to Succeed
Most people agree that hunger has a direct impact on a child’s health and physical development, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that the effects of hunger go far beyond that. Over the last decade, researchers have become increasingly focused on the relationship between food insecurity and academic performance—and studies have overwhelmingly shown that hungry kids are more likely to struggle in school.
And it’s not just a matter of statistics. Schools partnering with the Maryland Food Bank have told us the same thing, over and over.
“What happens is they’ll just shut down,” explained Jeanette Gaither, guidance counselor at Sharp Leadenhall Elementary. “And they’ll even tell you outright they’re hungry, and you can see it impacting their learning, their behavior.”
The problem is: disrupted learning creates a downward spiral in which students fall further and further behind. Self-esteem is impacted. Kids stop trying. Their grades begin failing.
Studies have shown that food-insecure students are at a higher risk of dropping out of high school, and, according to a report by Columbia University, high school dropouts earn $260,000 less over a career than high school graduates.
The cycle continues as these individuals struggle to support their families with low-paying jobs, just as their parents before them. Without intervention, their children and their children’s children may well meet the same fate.
But there is hope. With government funding for the school meals programs and the Maryland Food Bank’s School Pantry programs, children who don’t have food at home are now getting the nutrition they need right from their schools. What’s more, through the School Pantry program, many children are able to bring food home to their families at the end of the day.
“This program is so valuable to us,” said Gaither. “I really believe one of the reasons kids come to school is that they know that they can get food here if they need it.”
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