A family enjoys a meal around a table. The US Department of Agriculture has just released a report demonstrating that SNAP (formerly food stamps) can play a major role in fighting poverty, especially among children.

Keeping Kids Well Fed and Fueled in the Classroom



Too many children are going to school hungry. We are all told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but imagine that day after day, having breakfast may not be a stable option for you or your family. And imagine that food is scarce for other meals as well. How well could you do on tests? On papers? In class discussions?

A study recently released by No Kid Hungry found that three out of four public school teachers also say that students regularly come to school hungry. Though child nutrition programs like the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, already exist, these programs need to be strengthened. Breakfast is connected to benefits in the classroom: a majority of teachers see students paying better attention in class and having improved attendance. 48% of educators also note that their teens have fewer disciplinary problems when they eat breakfast.

In the United States, there are 14.7 million poor children and 6.5 million extremely poor children. Many of these poor children struggle with issues pertaining to child hunger. The US Department of Agriculture reports that 15.8 million children under 18 live in households experiencing food insecurity. Hunger is still taking place on a massive scale, both in the United States and around the world.

When a child doesn’t have enough food to eat, they cannot focus as well in school, leading to lower performance, making it less easy for these kids to graduate high school and then pursue higher learning in college. Kids experiencing hunger thus are kept in a cycle of poverty, making it hard to break out of it and ultimately thrive.

As Reform Jews, we have an obligation to advocate for those who are hungry.  “When you are asked in the world to come, ‘What was your work?’ and you answer: ‘I fed the hungry,’ you will be told: ‘This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry’” (Midrash to Psalm 118:17). Deuteronomy 15:7-10 elaborates on our commitment to helping the hunger person amongst us. The text states, “If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren…you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.” Our tradition is explicit in commanding that we feed the hungry, and we must work to make that a reality.

This September, Congress will need to address issues regarding reauthorization for child nutrition programs that are crucial to helping kids stay engaged in schools. While the programs are permanently authorized, Congress uses the reauthorization process to re allocate funding when the previous funding stream expires. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – which includes programs such as the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programsthe Summer Food Service Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) – will sunset in September 2015. It is essential that these programs stay funded so that children can get the support that they need. Urge your Members of Congress to fund important child nutrition programs today!

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Melanie Fineman

About Melanie Fineman

Melanie Fineman is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the RAC. She graduated from Brown University in 2014 and is originally from Newton, Massachusetts, where she is a member of Temple Shalom of Newton.

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