Why Childhood Hunger Matters to Me
“I didn’t really think much about what childhood hunger looked like until I began working around it every day. Twelve years ago, I was working as a teacher at a Kansas City charter school. Our school had a population that had a large percentage of children receiving free or reduced-price lunches. One of my responsibilities as a special education resource teacher was to help serve lunch several days each week. What I saw in the cafeteria helped me understand something vital. Hungry kids look like other kids. Except they aren’t. They eat like no one is watching, they lick their trays clean, they finish quickly and ask others if ‘they are gonna eat that.’ They are grateful for what is placed on their plates.
The cafeteria grows quiet as each group sits down and the noise that you would expect in a busy school cafeteria is absent. These kids are eating. There is no playing or wasting because they know that this may be their best meal of the day. They know what was in the kitchen at their house when they left for school either with or without breakfast. When we had leftovers, hands shot up. Kids lined up. We gave generous portions knowing that this was the meal that kids could count on Monday through Friday. And when we ran out or a kid was just plain hungry, there was a pantry full of assorted donations that our custodian had acquired from the local food pantry for the purpose of feeding the bellies first so we could feed the minds second. That’s why it matters to me.”