BKO Hunger Helps Kids Succeed In School

May 29th, 2014

Bucks Knocks Out Hunger is coming up on June 20th! Over the next few weeks, our blog will feature stories, articles and news from our BKO Hunger partners to highlight their work and demonstrate the impact that the project will have on our community. This story comes from Matt Uhler, Project Coordinator for 21st Century Community Learning Center, about the impact food insecurity can have on a student’s well being. 

Miscellaneous4.16.13 245Two weeks ago, I was helping a group of high school students with some school work when one of the girls asked if I had anything to eat. I told her I didn’t. She then asked if I had a dollar for the vending machine. Again, I didn’t.

She was irritable and let everyone else in the room know it. Not wanting the situation to escalate, I suggested she was getting hangry (hungry + angry). The term was both new and funny to the students, and I went to my office to see if I had any snacks squirreled away somewhere to help her out.

Most of us have been in this student’s position. We’ve waited a little longer for a meal than we would have liked, or our schedule forced us to eat later than usual or even skip a meal. Most of us have also experienced the irritability, the “hanger,” that follows when we disrupt our eating schedules.

Hangry: It’s a Real Thing

While the term hangry began as a trendy mash-up to describe a modern inconvenience, there’s now science to back it up. According to a March 2014 publication of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the energy required to control aggressive impulses often comes from the food we eat.

We may not need a group of scientists to tell us that we get grumpy when we’re hungry, but knowing that hunger has a real effect on personality and behavior should give us reason to reflect on the situation—especially as it relates to children and education.

Hunger in our Schools

My students and I might have laughed about their hanger, but for children living with food insecurity, the irritability caused by hunger has more meaning and magnitude. Multiple studies have linked food insecurity to developmental and behavioral issues among children. Similarly, good nutrition has been tied to better academic performance.

This is important, here and now, because food insecurity affects 15% of the children living in Bucks County. Since 2008, Bucks County has seen a 42% increase in the number of children who are eligible for free- and reduced-lunch.

Join the Fight

The good news is that we can help. We are addressing food insecurity right here in Bucks County through events like BKO Hunger and Adopt-a-Pantry. These projects help us address a barrier to student achievement and help meet a pressing need in our community by helping to stock local pantries during the summer months.

Making sure that children are getting the proper nutrition is a year-round priority. These summer months are crucial because students are not able to get free and reduced meals at school. As this school year comes to an end, I urge you to get in the ring and join in the fight against food insecurity.

About the Contributor: Matt Uhler works for United Way of Bucks County where he manages a grant-funded after-school program. His interest in food insecurity stems from his years as a volunteer at a Bucks County food pantry.

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