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Report: Many Kids Too Hungry to Learn

February 28, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Thousands of teachers in Ohio are ringing the alarm bell because they feel too many kids are just too hungry to learn. A new report finds two-thirds of teachers across the U.S. say they have children in their classrooms that are not getting enough to eat at home. The study comes from the anti-hunger group Share Our Strength and says the problem is more acute in urban and rural areas.

The Food Service director of Columbus City Schools, Joe Brown, says schools are often the primary source of nourishment for pupils.

"Our children come from all different types of family situations, some of which are living in shelters, some of which don't know where they're going to spend the night tonight, let alone where their next meal comes from."

In the study, 98 percent of the teachers said there is a strong connection between eating a healthy breakfast and a pupil's ability to concentrate, behave and perform academically. Brown says he sees it every day.

"Students that are hungry have increased behavioral issues, increased nurse visits, lower academic performance. Many barriers to them learning tie back to nourishment, so we do everything we can to make sure they have what they need."

Share Our Strength says more than a half-million dollars in grants will be used to promote alternative breakfast models for kids, such as breakfast in the classroom, grab-'n'-go breakfast, and second-chance breakfast, which provides food after the first period.

According to the report, 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. Brown says his district offers free breakfast for every pupil, and four in five of them qualify for the National School Lunch program.

The survey is available at www.strength.org

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH