Before Luvenia Jackson became superintendent of schools in Clayton County, she was an elementary school teacher. “Visible learning doesn’t begin in the classroom, it begins with food,” said Jackson at Clayton County’s Summer Meals Kick-Off. “I’ve always provided my students with snacks from my own funds. Students need nourishment throughout the day for learning.”
Hunger in Our Schools: Share Our Strength’s Teachers Report 2013 shows teachers are spending an average of $37 a month of their personal money on food for their students. Principals are spending an average of $59 a month.
The report states 73 percent of teachers say their students come to school hungry on a regular basis because of a lack of food at home. Over 80 percent of the teachers agree that a student’s hunger causes lack of energy, which leads to poor concentration and poor academic performance.
School is more than a place for reading, writing, and arithmetic. Academic success is more than studying and earning good grades. To do both well, it starts with nutritious food.
Studies have shown there is a correlation between healthy eating and academic performance.
Researchers from the University of Alberta studied 5,200 fifth grade students who participated in the Lifestyle and School-performance Study. They found students, who consumed adequate amounts of nutritious meals containing increased fruits and vegetables with lower caloric intake, performed significantly higher in the classroom than those who consumed less fruit and vegetables with a higher caloric intake.
What it boils down to is students need nutritious food for academic success.
Schools in Georgia are providing students with meals containing more fruits and vegetables with a lower caloric intake. Students are able to enjoy their favorite meals, such as chicken nuggets or pizza, in a healthier way. Chicken nuggets have leaner meat. Pizza dough is wheat based.
Approximately 700,000 Georgia students live with food insecurity. Food insecurity is not having daily access to adequate, nutritious food. Roughly 85 percent of those students receive free or reduced lunch while school is in session. Unfortunately, this can be their only daily meal.
Many of Georgia’s schools provide free breakfast to all students. Breakfast contains whole grain, fruit, and dairy. Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. Researchers at the American Dietetic Association found that students have better academic success when they consume breakfast, lunch and a snack while learning.
“Students should only have to focus on learning, not finding food,” said Richard Woods, the superintendent of Georgia State Schools.
Schools providing breakfast and lunch allows students to thrive in the classroom because they are not focusing on growling stomachs while tackling studies. Hunger should not be a classroom distraction.
School is out, but hunger and learning are not
What happens in the summer when free or reduced price lunches are no longer available?
The Georgia Department of Education has teamed up with Seamless Summer, a Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) for educational institutions, to provide students with breakfast, lunch, and a snack on a daily basis at no charge. Parents and students can text “Food GA” to 877-877 to find a nearby school summer meal site. Summer meals are free to all students who are 18 years old and younger.
Students are visiting their local libraries this summer for more than reading and learning. Libraries are becoming ideal sites for summer meals. While students read their favorite books, they can eat a nutritious meal consisting of a sandwich on whole wheat bread, fruit, vegetables, a snack, and milk.
“Most children don’t eat this healthy in summer,” said Christine, a mother of three who attended the Clayton County Kick-Off event at the Clayton County Library System Headquarters branch. “Summer meal programs like this one is a great way to expose children to the library, have a nutritious meal, and keep food in the house.”
Many libraries are providing students with summer meals through the SFSP. For library summer meal sites, text “Food GA” to 877-877.
This summer can be filled with fun, education, and free summer meals.
To find local summer meal sites:
- Text “Food GA” to 877-877
- Call the SFSP line at 855-550-SFSP
- Dial 211