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Detecting Child Hunger in Your Classroom

sad little girl student

With one in six kids in the United States not knowing where their next meal will come from, chances are, you may have a student who is not getting enough to eat at home. Three out of four public school teachers say students regularly come to school hungry. Kids who are hungry probably struggle to concentrate in class and fall behind academically. They may also be more likely to miss school due to illness and suffer from irritability, low self-esteem or lack of energy. It is important for educators to note when their students are struggling.

Your student will most likely not go to an adult about not getting enough to eat. Because they may not come to you, here are some look-out signs:

They ask about food every day, and they’re not picky about what they eat. 

They suddenly lose or gain weight but don’t change their activity level.

They hoard snacks and food.

They bully others or behave badly.

They have a poor attention span, memory or trouble concentrating.

They are hyperactive or impulsive.

They are susceptible to illness.

They show aggressive or antisocial behavior.

    If you have noticed that one of your students is showing some or all of the signs, there are many ways to help. Remember that it is so important not to single them out or embarrass them in front of other kids. Some teachers have chosen to always keep crackers, raisins, and other snacks in their drawer. They make their snack drawer available to students and some students will pop by to grab a snack. One teacher named Mary Preston unintentionally started a food pantry. She held a school fundraiser and her students were encouraged to bring canned food for her to donate. Mary stored the donated food in the classroom until she could find time to bring it to a food bank. Soon after the fundraiser, her students started showing up in her classroom asking if she had any extras. She realized how many of her students were hungry. Mary found that local pantries closed before 2 PM before students could get a chance to get food. She decided to have an at school food pantry. With support of her principal and the community, more than 30 students every day would come to the pantry for food. If this is not something that you can do at your school, look into meal programs for your students.

    CE Credits Online has a course, Creating Compassionate Classrooms: Overcoming Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), that will really dive into how you can help students who suffer from adverse childhood experiences currently or in the past—i.e. extreme poverty, hunger, dysfunctional homes where alcohol or drug abuse exists and homes where physical and emotional abuse and violence is part of the child’s life.  

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