"I've had students who came to school with lunch the previous day having been their last meal," said Julie Fahey, former teacher and now principal of Queen Palmer Elementary in Colorado Springs, Colo. "Hungry students simply can't focus and learn."
A recent report released by Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign-Hunger in Our Schools: Share Our Strength's Teachers Report 2012-revealed that three out of five of U.S. and Colorado teachers regularly see students coming to school hungry. The survey was conducted among more than 1,000 K-8 public school teachers nationwide, including in Colorado.
"Access to healthy food is the number one school supply students need to succeed in the classroom this fall," said Tom Nelson, President of Share Our Strength. "Kids can't concentrate on reading and math when they're focused on their growling stomachs. If we want our youngest generation to grow up smarter, healthier and stronger, we need to make sure they get the healthy food they need every day."
Studies show that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, particular for children, and those who do not eat a morning meal suffer. They are more likely to struggle with poor academic performance, exhibit behavior problems and experience poor health. Eating breakfast at home or school actually can improve math, reading and standardized test scores. It also can decrease tardiness and suspensions as well as improve memory, attentiveness and overall health.
According to the Colorado Department of Education, of the more than 217,000 low-income students in Colorado who ate free or reduced-price lunch a day in the 2010-11 school year, only 87,000 students participated in the School Breakfast Program.
"The School Breakfast Program is proven to improve children's nutrition, education, behavior and overall well-being, and it's also one of the most effective ways to end child hunger in our state," said Kathy Underhill, executive director of Hunger Free Colorado. "Through our work with principals, teachers, local nutrition directors and parents, we are making breakfast more accessible to all students in Colorado."
The No Kid Hungry Colorado campaign, a partnership between Hunger Free Colorado, Share Our Strength and the Office of Governor John Hickenlooper with a goal of ending child hunger by 2015, helps increase access to nutritious food where children live, learn, pray and play. As part of the campaign, Hunger Free Colorado works with schools and communities to increase participation in the School Breakfast Program by implementing innovative serving methods that incorporate breakfast as part of the school's morning routine.
Instead of the traditional method of serving breakfast in the cafeteria before classes start, elementary to high schools across the state can make it easier for students by implementing Breakfast in the Classroom or Grab and Go. To increase school breakfast participation in the 2012-13 school year, Hunger Free Colorado plans to expand the use of innovative breakfast-serving methods in a minimum of 85 schools and adding nearly 5,216 free and reduced-priced students throughout the state.
"Nearly 75 percent of Colorado students who needed a balanced school breakfast didn't participate in the School Breakfast Program last year," said Kathy Underhill, executive director for Hunger Free Colorado. "Collectively we can change that. By bringing breakfast into the classroom, we can provide students with a nutritious start to the day and help ensure fewer children go hungry at school."
Launched in 2009, Hunger Free Colorado is the state's leading anti-hunger organization. They leverage the power of collaboration, system change, policy change and social change to ensure that every Coloradan has access to adequate, nutritious food.
Visit www.hungerfreecolorado.org to learn more about ending hunger in Colorado and how you can become a part of the solution.
This article was provided by MICHELLE RAY, Director of Communications of Hunger Free Colorado.
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)