Have you ever felt hungry and couldn’t focus? My seventh-grade English class learned from the No Kid Hungry campaign that nearly one out of five children face the threat of hunger this year.
Children get hungry. This can lead to not being able to focus during class because their stomachs are growling, and they are just thinking about what they are going to eat for their next meal. The government has made cuts in food stamps, which will cut about $36 that families would usually receive each month, says the documentary A Place at the Table. This seems like a small amount of money, but to these families, this is a lot of money that could be used on fresh fruits and vegetables.
When I was 9, I was really hungry in the mornings. My mom, my brother, and I would walk to my school, and they would drop me off and go back home. My mom made me eat the breakfast they had for free at the cafeteria. I wouldn’t eat the food sometimes — not because I was picky but because it just didn’t taste very good. It was probably made from corn, which Michael Pollan points out in The Omnivore’s Dilemma is in almost all processed food. “But that’s not all. Look again. Somewhere, behind the brightly colored packaging, underneath the labels covered with information, there is a mountain of corn,” he writes.
When I left the cafeteria, I would go play; then the bell would ring, and class would start. After about an hour of class, I got hungry. I couldn’t focus without thinking about my growling stomach, and I didn’t have the energy I needed. What was really bad about this is that during class, we were not allowed to eat because the teachers found it was too distracting.
This went on for a few weeks until my teacher noticed. She told me to stay in for recess, and I was scared because I thought I did something wrong. She told me not to be scared; she asked me why I was tired and couldn’t focus during class. I told her that I just got really hungry during class and zoned out. She asked me if it would help if I ate a bit during class. I said yes, and from that day forward I have eaten during class almost every day.
Not all kids are as lucky as I was. Some kids either don’t have time for breakfast or they are embarrassed to be considered the “poor kids” who eat at the cafeteria.
Children have to eat breakfast because it is the meal that gives them that little bit of energy to survive the morning. The teachers see the effects that it has on children academically. Nine out of 10 teachers agree that breakfast is extremely important for academic achievement, and teachers also credit breakfast with increased concentration. They say that students who don’t have breakfast spend more time thinking about when their next meal will be instead of focusing on their work in class.
Our community may have many kids who don’t eat breakfast and are hungry while in class. These kids don’t have to speak up; they might seem like they are fine, but everyone knows how that person feels: hungry.
Our community can contribute to the No Kid Hungry foundation. This foundation helps get kids fed so they have energy in the morning. It could start off with just you and spread through the community.
If you notice someone who is hungry, give him or her a piece of advice: They can eat at the cafeteria at all Santa Barbara schools without worrying about being picked on for eating there. Perhaps, if the school allows it, they could eat during class like me. You never know who that hungry person may be: It could be a neighbor or even a loved one. So ask and don’t be shy.
Remember, this could start off with you and blossom into an amazing achievement in human history: ending child hunger.