by Madden Marlais
Madden attends Capital Hill Day School in Washington, D.C. He is in 8th grade.
Childhood food insecurity throughout D.C. is a problem, but is an issue wherever you live. Food insecurity refers to the lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. These food insecure households also have children in them. These children, who are smart and capable are suddenly not able focus because their family cannot afford or access food. Children who suffer from food insecurity have a disadvantage in school. Children who live in specific wards in D.C, have a disadvantage because of the food insecurity in their ward. As JoAnne Hammermaster, Co-founder and Executive Director of Real Food for Kids said, “When children are hungry, you can see the difference in their behavior and how they act than when they are not.” The lack of food security causes negative effects on children’s education as well as their academic achievement. Schools can address this issue by providing meals for students who are hungry to improve academic achievement.
Children who are hungry behave worse in schools. As a Principal at Daisy Bates Elementary School said about his students, “When kids are hungry, they have a hard time doing the easiest things — like getting from the bus to class or behaving in the hallways.” This principle was having trouble with students’ behavior just because they were hungry. So, they decided to implement a school breakfast. The principal said, “Not only were we able to help kids that were obviously suffering from lack of food, but once we introduced breakfast, referrals to my office for behavior problems went down by two-thirds. And math scores went up by 18%!”
This improvement happened after they decided to implement food breakfast. If implementing breakfast improved that much of their problems, all schools should do it. According to a journal of the American Dietetic Association “Having nutritionally adequate foods is crucial to growth and development of kids.” School breakfast is helping provide those adequate foods for the children who need it.
Food insecurity for children is a particularly huge problem in D.C. According to Feeding America, 23.6% of children in D.C have food insecurity. This number is very high compared to the national food insecurity rate of 8%. Childhood food insecurity is the percentage of children under eighteen years old living in households that experience limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods at some point during the year. Children who are food insecure, are more likely to misbehave in school, causing more suspensions, trouble and all-around negative effects. The problem of food insecurity should be solved because it will provide more opportunities for students to learn and behave well.
According to the Food Research and Action Center, 67.7% of students eat free and reduced priced breakfast. This program improves kids’ achievement and helps kids focus in schools. Having a school breakfast is very important. This will provide more opportunities for kids because of this breakfast. According to an Assessment of the Nutrition Education Needs of Day Care Providers “When you are not hungry, you are more likely to do better in school.” Children who eat reduced priced school breakfast do better in school. Students are less hungry in school which makes them behave better. School breakfast in D.C will help end children’s hunger getting in the way of their academic achievement.
Hunger negatively affects kids in D.C. because of their location. In D.C. wards 7 and 8, there are only three full-service grocery stores. These three stores have to cover over 150,000 people in 17.2 square miles. These wards also have the lowest test scores in D.C. According to D.C. Action for Children “Ward 3 boasts pass rates (scores of proficient or above) that are 41 to 56 percentage points higher than pass rates in Wards 7 and 8.” These inequities cause children to suffer because of their location. Children struggle in school because they only have three grocery stores in such a large space. If ward 3 has nine grocery stores and has much better test scores, but Wards 7 and 8 have lower test scores, and less grocery stores, these two statistics directly correlate. The inequity in food in D.C. causes children’s academic achievement to be lessened because of where they live.
The lack of food security causes negative effects on children’s behavior and their academic achievement. Schools can address this issue by providing meals for students who are hungry to improve their success in school. Addressing this issue is important for children in D.C. to aid them in their path to academic achievement. School breakfast as well as making food more accessible in D.C. is aiding school hunger. Adding these needs not only will improve the academic achievement of D.C., children’s health, their grades, and students’ behavior will improve as well. This is crucial for children to mature to be able to provide a better life for themselves as adults. Schools in D.C. should work harder towards improving children’s achievement to better their lives and the lives of others around them.