Some students are hungry for knowledge, others are just hungry.

April 24, 2009

Even before the 2008 economic meltdown, more American Children had been going hungry than in 2007.  In fact, a recent Department of Agriculture study reports that one in six households with children couldn’t afford to buy enough food to adequately feed all of its members.  Shame on America.  The “greatest” nation in the world as we like to call ourselves, although I must admit that I often wonder what overzealous PR guy made up that line?  If we’re so great, then why do so many American kids go to bed hungry every night?

Here is an interesting fact for you:  90% of Oklahoma City public school children receive government subsidized breakfast and lunches because they live in homes below the poverty level.  A few years ago, when I was principal for the day at Northwest Classen High School, I visited the lunch room.  The real principal pointed out how many of the students would take a large portion of their lunch and stuff it in their pockets.  I thought this was odd until the principal said that they did this so that they would have something to eat for dinner when they went home.  Lauren, my wife and former teacher, once pointed out that hungry students don’t make good students.  Of course, she is right.

Here is a suggestion for our elected leaders – how about getting off your fat asses and do something meaningful for the young men and women of this country who are going to bed hungry every night?  Rather than point the middle finger at each other and with unabated zeal and blame the opposing party for all the world’s pathetic problems, for once address a real issue right here on your doorstep?  This is one voter who could care less about your petty,  pathetic and often myopic pet causes.  I do care about kids all across this country who have to steal in order to feed themselves.  We should add to our lexicon this simple idea . . . R stands for Republican.  D stands for Democrat.  I stands for Independent.  S stand for Selfish, short-sighted and stupid.  We have a lot of elected officials who are S’s.

In a world where people speak of red or blue states, let’s add one more category:  the states of perpetual hunger.  It is sad color that stretches from coast to coast.  If I sound angry, I am.  Famished American students in the 21st century is simply  inexcusable and unacceptable.   Our government has billions to bail out failed companies. But somehow all across this land kids go to bed on empty stomachs and as a nation we can’t find the resources to solve this problem?  I have heard it suggested that the school year should be changed from nine months to a year-round process.  It’s a good idea if for no other reason that to provide nourishment during summer months.  Otherwise, ask yourself where the food comes to feed children in poverty when school is out for three long months?

Better nutrition is the first step toward better grades, better students and eventually, a better nation.  Obviously, improving graduation rates and test scores is a complex issue.  But, ensuring that the weakest, the poorest and neediest students among us receive adequate food to fuel their dreams is a cause that we should all support.   I am not asking you to invent the wheel.  Call the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools (405-879-2007) and ask how you can help?  There are some programs that offer help.  You can be confident that each is under-financed.  So, write a check.  If you’re a baby boomer, leave something in your will.  If you’re retired, volunteer your time and your ideas.  This problem will only get worse without the attention of people who care enough to get involved.  Don’t just consider this piece simply “food for thought.”  What these students need most is help getting over the unceasing hurdle of “thoughts of food.”

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