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Kids raise their hands all the time in my classroom and say that they're hungry, but I have nothing to give them. (Kindergarten teacher from Texas)

  This is an exact quote from my daughter's public school kindergarten teacher, from a conversation that we had this morning.  

  More on this subject below the fold...

  This elementary school is the largest in the district, and due to the logistics of scheduling cafeteria time for kindergarten through sixth grade classes, the kindergarten class eats lunch at 10:45.  The school lets out between 2:45 and 3.  They may have gym on some days.  During the four hours from 11 to 3 these five-year-old kids have lots of tasks requiring physical exertion, dexterity and concentration, including recess, and sometimes gym.  The teacher explained that there is no time set aside in the school schedule for afternoon snacks, so there are no afternoon snacks.   My first daughter's teacher also told me there was no time set aside for snacks, but she told all the parents to send snacks, and allowed her children to eat them as they were trying to do their math lessons.  That's America for you -- always on the go.  Teaching our children to bolt their food while getting MORE IMPORTANT things done. I wonder why they haven't started having lessons in the cafeteria while the kids are wasting precious education time doing nothing worthwhile, just eating lunch.

  On "Meet the Teacher night" I asked about snacks because I remembered the early lunch time and snack periods from my first daughter's elementary days.  The teacher said if you send a snack with your child, she can have it.  I did send a snack with my child, and my child said she kept raising her hand, but the teacher kept ignoring her.  When I spoke to the teacher, she said she'd forgotten about our discussion, and that " raise their hands all the time in my classroom and say that they're hungry, but I have nothing to give them."  That statement really struck a chord with me.  

  Speaking of the cafeteria, I met my daughter for lunch a few days ago, to take her some medicine, because she was at school trying to learn while her head ached and she had a sore throat.  The school wouldn't give her ibuprofen without a note from the doctor, and the doctor wouldn't give standing orders for the school, so I had to leave work to drive over to give it to her.  (I finally got a nurse practictioner to sign the standing orders.  Hurray!!)  My daughter had a tray of pretty tasty food, and a muffin that she had bought extra.  Across the table from her was a little boy whom I sat beside.  He had a slip from the cafeteria saying he had only $.25 remaining on his account and said they took his tray away and gave him the sandwich. He was eating his sandwich, lunchmeat and cheese, and was watching my daughter eat her bounty.   I'd have suggested that she share some of her food, but that's against the rules.  I thought of buying him a lunch, but lunch period was almost over. He finished his sandwich and said "I'm so hungry!!!".   I said, "why don't you ask if you can have another sandwich".  He said, "I don't think they do that here".  I said, "Make sure your parents get that note".   He said, "I already told them.  They don't have any money."

  Kindergartners, and even third graders, won't challenge authority.  Often, they don't even speak up when they are in need.  If they timidly try to tell the teacher they are HUNGRY, and are ignored, then they will sit there and be hungry all day.  What else are they supposed to do?    Teachers will go get something from the snack machine if they're hungry.  Schoolkids are dependent on the teacher for the most basic needs to get permission to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water or get a snack.   They don't get to use the snack machine.  

  On test day last year, the teacher asked all the parents to make sure their kids got protein for breakfast that day.  I guess it's important to make sure the kids get protein on the day they are performing their tricks to get the schools a good rating on the standardized tests.  It seems a little short-sighted, though, not to worry about all those other days when they are learning that test material.  If you don't feed the kids when they're supposed to be learning the material on the test, then how well will they do on the test, even if they eat a good breakfast that day?

  It's none of my business, I guess, but I wonder how many little five year old kids are getting hypoglycemia during the end of the day, and feeling sleepy, sad, irritable or unable to concentrate for lack of food.  I wonder if the effects of hunger or low blood sugar actually get some of them in trouble.  I wonder how many bottomless pits of third grade boys are eating two slices of bread, a slice of lunchmeat and a slice of cheese, and going back to class still hungry.  I wonder if children at being medicated for attention disorders when less sugar and caffeine, timely meals and snacks or an energetic run on the playground might help the problem.

  Before we pin our hopes on fancy solutions like standardized tests to solve our education problems, we might want to look at making sure our kids have a healthy regimen of regularly scheduled nutritious meals and snacks and exercise. We might also consider that the poorest kids, who are at greatest risk of performing poorly on standardized tests, are the ones who are eating that skinny little sandwich and going back to class hungry.  And, maybe, the humiliation of being branded with the Scarlet Letter at lunch, the dreaded SANDWICH, might also interfere with their concentration a bit.  Maybe not sending kids to class hungry, and not humiliating the poorest kids for being poor, might help to improve our educational outcomes.  After all, it is the PARENTS who failed to pay the lunchroom bill, not the kids.

Originally posted to DFWmom on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 07:51 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is not civilized. (9+ / 0-)

    What other developed country allows schoolchildren to go hungry?

    I could have been a soldier... I had got part of it learned; I knew more about retreating than the man that invented retreating. --Mark Twain

    by NogodsnomastersMary on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 07:54:12 AM PDT

  •  This is sad; the sad part is I'm not surprised (7+ / 0-)

    I agree many so-called "problem kids" need healthy meals and regular exercise to solve their behavioral issues.  It breaks my heart to read about children going hungry and ASKING for more food to no avail.  What is this, Oliver Twist?  I hope you had a chance to speak to your school's principal about scheduling snack time.  This is something you must bring up with your local school board too.  I feel queasy thinking about those poor hungry kids, especially since my little ones (4.5 and almost 8) start school this week.  Please keep us posted.

    Tityre, tu patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi...

    by EGuest on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 08:05:50 AM PDT

    •  ABSOLUTELY! (7+ / 0-)

      Excellent point - TALK to the principal, make that phone call - among the myriad of things he/she is tracking this may be below the radar.

      You might even find they are trying to do something to address this issues and find your fears allayed.

      •  Good advice (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        splashy, JanL, Alexandra Lynch

        I do talk to the principal when needed.  I'm talking to my teacher right now.  Going "over her head" without giving her a chance to fix the problem could cause repercussions, but if I don't get the snack arrangements worked out for my child, the principal is next on my list.  She does recognize me and chat with me in the hall on occasion, so if I get a chance to mention it casually, you can bet I'm going to bring it up.  I really like our superintendent, and if I can find a way to drop a note to him about this, as a policy issue, I might do that as well.

  •  You just make me feel lucky (10+ / 0-)

    Our school district has morning breakfast available - subsidized and recently reviewed for healthfulness.  Afternoon?  Lunch - also reviewed to accent healthfulness.

    Kids get a stamp on their hand when their lunch money is running dry on their account.  PB sandwiches are served if the money doesn't come thru, but the caring is still there.

    NO child should be hungry and receiving deficit learning.  And that is exactly what it is:

    Deficit Learning

    •  Our district serves breakfast too (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      splashy, Elise, JanL, Alexandra Lynch

      Some schools here have started serving really healthy "grab-n-go" breakfasts that ths kids eat during first period. When I was in school I would have been reprimanded for eating in class, but the teachers today apparently like it.

      Mornings before school are a chaotic rush anyway, and the kids of all income levels can often get out the door without food. So the kids eating breakfast have become calmer and more attentive, the teachers say.

      The parents here have gotten really involved in getting the schools to serve healthier food. Also, they implemented a card-swiping system so that the free lunch kids and the non-free-lunch kids both pay for lunch with the same school ID, and the low income kids do not have to stand in a separate line and be stigmatized.

      But bottom line, eating the healthy food during first period has made the teachers' lives easier.

    •  Our district serves breakfast, too (5+ / 0-)

      The problem is at the other end of the day, between lunch and afternoon dismissal.

      They have breakfast at 7:30, lunch at 10:45, and then nothing.  This is during the period of the day when they do the most physical exercise, after lunch, when they have recess and somtimes also P.E.  And, these are the smallest kids with the smallest stomachs, who have the earliest lunch period.

      •  My daughter is in 3rd grade and has last lunch (0+ / 0-)

        which is 12:45.  The teacher suggests they bring a snack and they are allowed to eat it.  The school has pre-K through 5th, and the little ones start eating at 10:30 a.m.  School day is 8:00 a.m. to 3 p.m.

        Even when I went to Kindergarten 1/2 day in the afternoon, we had snack break!  Everyone brought cookies and milk money--like a nickle. That was 35 years ago in suburban Illinois.

  •  Not just hunger... pain, too (12+ / 0-)

    The number of children attending school with pain from inadequate dental care is another tragedy... Jonothan Kozol discussed this in one of his books years ago.

    How can a child learn properly while his or her jaw is aching, teeth are hurting, and head is in pain?

    There are so many things wrong with education, and yet some of the most basic have to do with nutrition and health care.

    •  This I know about intimately (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      When I was a child this was a real problem for me. My mother did not take me to the dentist at all because of a lack of money and there were no programs then. The pain was a real problem for many years, and I'm sure did not help.

      Thanks for mentioning this. It needs to be brought up, that's for sure!

      Karl Rove, Republican Agnostic

      by splashy on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 11:51:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  In our school (8+ / 0-)

    they IMHO do a great job of looking after all the kids, including those who are without resources. There's no list of mandatory school supplies, and all the teachers will provide snacks to kids who don't have anything for snacktime - they ask for donations from parents who can do so.

    Talk to the teacher and principal, and come at it with an "I'm here to help" attitude, ask them what you can do to help them with this problem that they have. More often than not, you'll get a good response.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 08:13:44 AM PDT

  •  Does Texas provide any assistance (7+ / 0-)

    to families for no-cost or low-cost school breakfast or lunches?  Here in my rural area of NY State, the school districts are very good at getting out the information regarding the free/reduced cost guidelines to families of school-age children and highly encourages those eligible to participate.  

    The reduced rates are as low as $.25/lunch and $.10/breakfast.  

    "Children in households getting Food Stamps or TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) and most foster children can get meals regardless of your income.  Also, your children can get free price meals if your household income is within the free limits on the Federal Income Guidelines."

    Provisions are also made for homeless, runaway, or migrant children and families who are participating in the WIC program.

    I would hope that all states have a program such as the one offered in NY state, but sadly I wouldn't be surprised if some don't.

    •  True (7+ / 0-)

      I don't want to derail this conversation, but we discovered that the lack of English language is what kept people in the dark about the programs.

      We built an initiative, driven by parents, up to the school district to open ONE site for enrollment, having non-english experts on tap via web or phone to the University, the site where you had easy transport access - where you could get or find out how to get shots.  It's the whole nine-yards.

      Even special assessments from the standpoint of special needs could be made.  AND it is open all the time - not just during the school year.

    •  Yes, they do have reduced and free lunches (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      catfish, Elise, Ellicatt, Alexandra Lynch

      But, I guess families that qualify for reduced price lunches have a lot of money problems and may not get their child's account topped up.  Maybe some parents know their child will get that sandwich and don't make this a priority.  I just hate seeing the kids suffer for it.

    •  My kids attend Houston ISD and at the start (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      of each year I fill out the forms, and they are in English and Spanish, to determine free and reduced meal rates, as well as the form to determine migrant status, runaway, etc.  Every month a new menu is sent home.  The elementary school will provide free breakfast to all students, regardless of need.  HISD is one of the largest districts in the country, is diverse and tends to be "blue", so maybe this has something to do with it.

  •  Nice rant (6+ / 0-)

    There's plenty of room in our system for improvement and you've hit the nail on the head with one of them. It's sad that we don't give the education of our young the same priority as say, funding Iraq. It's sad that you need to see little red schoolhouses outside of stores to get classroom materials to teachers so they don't have to dip into their barely adequate salaries. It's sad that our system cares so little for our future that they are forced to hold bake sales or stock sugary treats in snack machines to supplement the money they get from state and federal government. I hope the Congress critters that are planning on giving Bush another 50 billion dollars on top of the 147 billion he is already getting read this and feel some shame. Why exactly shouldn't the little people who will one day be responsible for the fate of this country be the same priority level or a higher priority level then the mess we have over in Iraq as a result of the mistakes of our leadership?

  •  just gross (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LBK, DFWmom, Elise, Ellicatt

    that we cant even fed our kids and we're waxing on about democracy, and standardized tests, and estate taxes..

    thanks for the story. its a very good story

    those were good times, as far as we knew --colbert

    by AmericanHope on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 08:23:09 AM PDT

  •  At my son's high school (7+ / 0-)

    The pass time between classes is 4 minutes, a number arrived at by having the teachers time the distances between classes while the school was empty. Nice!

    My son has no time to get to his locker because his classes are all over the school, so he carries all his books with him. He doesn't have time to hit the water fountain, so he has to bring a water bottle every day, and it's usually empty by 1 PM. The food in the cafeteria is crap, so he brings his lunch, but there's nowhere for it to stay cool, so it's always a couple peanut butter sandwiches and a piece of fruit. Humble but satisfying, yes, but - come on! These kids need more that 4 minutes!

    I hate all these draconian rules in our schools.

    Also, there are a lot of small children - not to mention older kids - going home on Fridays knowing they might not get enough to eat over the weekend, so coming back to school to eat is crucial for them. I'd say the average percentage of children receiving free and reduced lunch and breakfast in our district is about 50%. If these kids aren't given enough time to eat these meals, they're being doubly disserviced.

    •  I'm a substitute teacher... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DFWmom, Elise, Alexandra Lynch

      ...and I think it's really ridiculous that HIGH SCHOOL KIDS need to ask permission to piss. And 24 minutes for lunch is pretty ludicrous, too.

    •  Crazy (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Elise, CSI Bentonville

      Both my kids take a water bottle.  I use Deja Blue bottles (they don't warp when re-frozen), and fill them three quarters with water the night before and freeze it.  In the morning, we top it off with water, and they can fill it at the fountain during the day.  It takes hours for the ice to melt.  My daughter still had ice at lunch today, 3 hours later.

      My 5 year old daughter told me today that since she chose to carry her water bottle to lunch, she was not allowed to buy milk with her meal!   She had a shriveled up hot dog, which she took 2 bites of.  A bun.  She hates bread.  Potato salad.  She doesn't like potato salad although she loves potatoes so she didn't take a single bite of that.  A bag of baked cheetos.  So, 2 bites of a hot dog and half a bag of baked cheetos was supposed to carry her through the next four hours.  

      Four minutes to change class is crazy.  There's not time to go to the bathroom or fill up a water bottle or go to your locker.   So, when do they get a chance to take care of those tasks?

  •  Honestly, when school is the same as prison... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DFWmom, splashy, BentLiberal

    it's no wonder so many of our kids end up in prison by the time they're 20.

    This is a good diary - it should be on the rec list.

    I'm not sure what I can suggest you do to help fix this problem - I guess if it were me I'd start with the Principal and move my way up to Superintendent and maybe try to get the PTA involved? Take it to the city council or something...

    No kid should go hungry at school. Ever.

    I touched the Universe -- And back it slid -- and I alone -- A Speck upon a Ball -- Went out upon Circumference -- Beyond the Dip of Bell --

    by Elise on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 10:28:07 AM PDT

  •  time (0+ / 0-)

    from the comments here, it's not just about food, it's also about time. Even if you pack food, if you don't have time to eat it, that's not very helpful. This seems to all tie into the "teaching to the test, cut art and music classes etc" mentality. As for the quality of the food, though, I don't know if there's exactly a downturn, there--from what I recall, American schools have pretty much always served unappetizing lunches--especially when compared with the usual suspects, like France or Italy.

    Our kids are attending a small private school with a reasonably good socioeconomic/racial ethnic mix, and I'm not very apologetic about it. And it's clear to me that what we're buying is not just "education". It's also safety, and a caring community of teachers who seem to know not just the kids in their own class, but most of the kids in the school, and involved (perhaps even hyperinvolved) parents who are willing to make lunches and who complain when "pizza day" one year was sourced from a Domino's franchise and not a local place with more acceptable politics (pizza supplier has since been changed). As far as food goes, the default is that every kid brings their own lunch (and in the older grades snacks), while sometimes arrangements like "pizza day" are made.

    But we pay a premium for that kind of peace of mind, and of course because there is an admissions process, "problem children" or even "problem families" can be excluded from the mix, which makes management many times easier.

    My sense from reading is that some school districts, at least, are getting some handle on the problem, if not all the way to the solution. NYC public schools distribute breakfast on a massive scale--even during the summer to kids who are not in school.

    But that's another issue--the balkanization of public schooling in the U.S. means that some districts will do pretty well, while others are a mess, and it is pretty difficult to implement anything across the I have nothing helpful to add in the end, I guess...except that it seems the fight will have to be fought, for now, school by school and district by district.

    Put the circular firing squad in the circular file.

    by JMS on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 06:46:56 AM PDT

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