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Report: Many FL Kids Too Hungry to Learn

February 24, 2011

MADISON COUNTY, Fla. - Teachers in Florida are ringing an alarm bell, contending that too many students in their classes are too hungry to learn.

Two-thirds of teachers across the United States say in a new survey that they see children in their classrooms who are not getting enough to eat at home. The study, from the anti-hunger group Share Our Strength, says the problem is more acute in urban and rural areas. It also finds that 61 percent of teachers who perceive a problem purchase food for their classrooms out of their own pockets, on an average of $25 each month.

Stacey Frakes, a teacher in Madison County, says she sees it all the time.

"We begin our day, a lot of days, dealing with children who are hungry, sending them to our offices or to sit aside and eat crackers or whatever we have in our office to give 'em - sometimes our lunches."

In the study, 98 percent of teachers say they believe in a strong connection between eating a healthy breakfast and a student's ability to concentrate, behave and perform academically. Frakes says hungry students can be cranky or othrwise distracted from classwork.

"I've had kids put their heads down and cry because they're hungry. Unless they've had a good breakfast, they can't focus."

Share Our Strength says more than $500,000 in grants will be used to promote alternative breakfast models for students such as breakfast in the classroom, "grab-and-go" breakfasts, and "second-chance breakfasts," which provide food after the first period.

Results of the survey are available at strength.org/teachers.

Eric Mack/Deb Courson, Public News Service - FL