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 Dave Moursund


How many children in America went to bed hungry last night?

Did yours? Or some other children you know?

As measured by per capita income, the United States is one of the richest nations in the world. Thus, I am always taken aback when I read articles reporting on hunger in America. I am particularly bothered by the data about hungry children.

Research on Consequences of Childhood Hunger

The topic of hunger is frequently reported on in our readily available news sources. Each new report from a research study elicits a number of articles. The U.S. Federal Government allocates considerable resources to addressing the problems of poverty and hunger.

The problem is not an inability for our country to produce enough food. The problem is to get more food to those people living in poverty. Here is a little data quoted from Do Something:

There has been considerable research on the consequences to children who live with hunger. The bulleted items given below are major findings discussed in No Kid Hungry (n.d.). Each is a researchable (and reasonably well researched) topic/finding. After each of the bulleted items, I briefly discuss a reference that happened to catch my eye. This bulleted list and its references are intended as a brief summary of the research and writings of a great many people.

Understanding the relationship between hunger and learning requires a long-term perspective: what happens at one stage of life affects later stages, and what happens in one generation affects the next. Consider hunger’s impact on learning. Nutrition during pregnancy and the first 2 years of life strongly influences future mental capacity. Along with genetics, stimulation and socio-economic factors, the nutritional conditions during pregnancy and infancy have an important impact on the growth of the brain.

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) reports that insufficient food limits a child’s ability to interact with others and his/her surroundings. This is especially damaging in schools, where hunger has a debilitating effect on children’s learning, concentration and ability to perform basic tasks.

The brief cites research that found food-insecure students between six and 11 years of age scored lower than their food-secure peers on a measure of child intelligence and were more likely to have seen a child psychologist. Those same children had a harder time getting along with their peers, were more likely to repeat a grade, and scored lower on standardized tests than their non-food-insecure classmates. Children with poor nutrition get sick more often too, leading them to miss classes—a reality Frank says “every grandmother knows.”

Children from families that report multiple experiences of food insufficiency and hunger are more likely to show behavioral, emotional, and academic problems on a standardized measure of psychosocial dysfunction than children from the same low-income communities whose families do not report experiences of hunger. Although causality cannot be determined from a cross-sectional design, the strength of these findings suggests the importance of greater awareness on the part of health care providers and public health officials of the role of food insufficiency and hunger in the lives of poor children.

Children who are hungry are more likely to have behavioral, emotional, and academic problems than those who are not hungry.

Teens experiencing hunger are more likely to have been suspended from school, have difficulty getting along with other children, and have no friends.

Hunger is a Global Problem

Quoting from “Causes of Poverty,” published in Global Issues (Shah, 3/24/2013):

I found the second statement particularly astonishing and mindboggling. The IAE Newsletter The First Machine Age discusses the growing American and worldwide situation of the wealth disparity between the rich and the poor. Can you imagine that the seven wealthiest people in the world have a total wealth equal to that of the total GDP of 41 heavily indebted poor countries? I wonder what it is like for one of these seven wealthy people to think about having as much wealth as the total annual productivity of about six countries with a total population of about 80 million people.

What You Can Do

Hunger is a special problem for those who are hungry. But, it is also a problem for each of us individually, and for our neighborhoods, communities, cities, counties, states, nations, and the world. Progress in alleviating the problem of hunger requires active participation by people, organizations, companies, and governments at all levels.

Each of us can help individually by becoming better educated on the subject, by helping others to become better educated on the subject, and by making individual contributions of our volunteer time, food resources, money resources, and so on.

Teachers play a vital role in such a bottom-up approach because of their routine interactions with children, their opportunities to help educate children and their families, and their strategic positions as members of their communities. Think carefully about what you are currently doing to help alleviate hunger among the children you encounter in your everyday life. What more could you be doing? What is keeping you from doing so? What more could your school or community be doing? What is keeping this from happening? See the “YAH Curriculum” (8/29/2013) for some curriculum ideas.

P.S. Added 11/12/2014

Homelessness is not as common as hungar, but still affects a great many children. A recent NPR report says:

There are more than 1.1 million public-school students in the U.S. without permanent homes, according to the U.S. Education Department. However, most of those students are not getting the services they need, asserts Patricia Julianelle, with the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. She says schools often do not have the resources needed to do so. 

See also:

NCHE (n.d.) Education for Homeless Children and Youth Consolidated State Performance Report Data: School Years 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13. National Center for Homless Education. Retrieved 11/12/2014 from http://center.serve.org/nche/.


P.S. Added 1/16/2015

Here is some more information about children and poverty.

Layton, L. (1/16/2015). Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty. Washington Post. Retrieved 1/16/2015 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/majority-of-us-public-school-students-are-in-poverty/2015/01/15/df7171d0-9ce9-11e4-a7ee-526210d665b4_story.html

Quoting from the article:

For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.

The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade were eligible under the federal program for free and reduced-price lunches in the 2012-2013 school year. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.


PS Added 2/11/2015

Diane Ravitch's s blog [A site to discuss better education for all}, Tuesday, January 20, 2015. See http://dianeravitch.net/2015/01/20/major-new-study-reports-on-strengths-and-vulnerabilities-of-american-school-system/. Quoting from the blog:

Some key findings:
*   Economic Equity: The United States and China demonstrate the greatest gaps between rich and poor. The U.S. also contends with remarkably high rates of income inequality and childhood poverty.
*   Social Stress: The U.S.reported the highest rates of violent death and teen pregnancy, and came in second for death rates from drug abuse. The U.S.is also one of the most diverse nations with many immigrant students, suggesting English may not be their first language.
*   Support for Families: The U.S. performed in the lowest third on public spending for services that benefit children and families, including preschool.
*   Support for Schools: Americans seem willing to invest in education: The U.S. leads the nine-nation group in spending per student, but the national estimates may not be truly comparable. U.S. teachers spend about 40 percent more time in the classroom than their peers in the comparison countries.
*   Student Outcomes: Performance in American elementary schools is promising, while middle school performance can be improved. U.S. students excel in 4th grade reading and high school graduation rates, but perform less well in reading at age 15. All nations demonstrate an achievement gap based on students' family income and socio-economic status.
*   System Outcomes: The U.S. leads these nations in educational levels of its adult workforce. Measures included years of schooling completed and the proportion of adults with high-school diplomas and bachelor's degrees. American students also make up 25 percent of the world's top students in science at age 15, followed by Japan at 13 percent.
*   "Too often, we narrow our focus to a few things that can be easily tested. To avoid that scoreboard mentality, we need to look at many measures important to shaping our future citizens. Treating education as a horse race doesn't work," said HML President Gary Marx.


PS Addded 7/3/2016

Harrington, D. (6/28/2016). Starving student is no longer a euphemism but a serious reality. University of New England. Retrieved 7/3/2016 from See https://www.socialworkhelper.com/2016/06/28/starving-student-no-longer-euphemism-serious-reality/. Quoting from the article:

We all have heard the term the “starving student”, but typically it’s a reference to playfully tease a student who has limited pocket money. However, the starving student is no longer a playful joke, but rather a serious reality many 20-something year old college students face. A recent study commissioned by Cal State University (CSU) Chancellor Timothy P. White reveals that one in 10 Cal State students are homeless, and one in five do not have access to sufficient food.

See details of the 2015 study at  https://presspage-production-content.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/1487/cohomelessstudy.pdf?10000.


Responses from Readers

This IAE Blog entry has received more responses than any previously published IAE blog. It pleases me reatly to read the responses and also to see the rapid growth in hits on this site. Readers are passing on the blog entry Web address to their friends. Thanks!!!

Here are a few comments from readers:

I think the message is clear. The people in each community can help their children. Contributions of time, food, and money can come in all sizes, and it all helps. One of my responders pointed out that the University of Oregon's intersquad spring (2014) foodball practice game collected nearly a hundred thousand cans of food.


No Kid Hungry (n.d.). “Hunger resources.” Retrieved 5/1/2014 from http://www.nokidhungry.org/sites/default/files/2011-childhood-hunger-facts.pdf. Also see http://www.nokidhungry.org/problem/hunger-facts.

Shah, A. (3/24/2013). “Causes of poverty.” Global Issues. Retrieved 5/1/2014 from http://www.globalissues.org/issue/2/causes-of-poverty.

YAH Curriculum (8/29/2013). “Youth against hunger education curriculum.” The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Retrieved 5/1/2014 from http://www.foodbankwma.org/learn/for-teachers/yah-curriculum-downloads/.

IAE Resources

Moursund, D. (2009). “Abraham Maslow.” IAE-pedia. Retrieved 5/1/2014 from http://iae-pedia.org/Abraham_Maslow.

Moursund, D. (9/19/2010). “In the United States, one in seven (and well over 20% of children) live in poverty.” IAE Blog. Retrieved 5/1/2014 from In the United States, One in Seven (and Well Over 20% of Children) Live in Poverty.

Moursund, D. (8/1/2012). “National academic standards versus inequities in funding schools.” IAE Blog. Retrieved 5/1/2014 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/national-academic-standards-versus-inequities-in-funding-schools.html.

Moursund, D. (12/23/2012). “What can you do and what will you do.” IAE Blog. Retrieved 5/1/2014 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/what-can-you-do-and-what-will-you-do.html.

Moursund, D. (2013). “Empowering learners and teachers.” IAE-pedia. Retrieved 5/1/2014 from http://iae-pedia.org/Empowering_Learners_and_Teachers.

Moursund, D. (9/9/2013). “Thinking and acting globally.” IAE Blog. Retrieved 5/1/2014 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/thinking-and-acting-globally.html.