WE KILLED HUNGER. This is no small achievement and set the stage for so many great moments that followed, but it all started with breakfast. Let me clarify, it all started with FREE breakfast. Every student at our school has access to both free breakfast and free lunch. Everyone. If you don’t think that is a big deal, then you don’t really understand how the human brain works; if you are hungry, fractions are never going to make sense - no matter how smart you are.
We are reaching the point in the school year, where we become reflective. Actually that’s not completely accurate. We are often reflective. We have meetings to analyze and review lessons and units we’ve taught, but this is the time of year when we begin to look at the long arch of the school year and see what has worked and what hasn’t. And we killed hunger.
Thanks to some generous grants we were able to ensure that all of our students not only had two solid meals a day at school, but also had an opportunity for a healthy snack as well. As I walked out front to work my spot as a crossing guard this afternoon, I passed a long line of students munching away on apples. They are exposed to all kinds of fruits and vegetables. I love watching our PE teacher share things like carrots, kale and raspberries with them. “Just take one bite. You might like it. Taste how free and sweet it is.” They all taste it, too. They often ask if they can have more. It is beautiful.
I was thinking, just the other day about how different our world would be if we truly treasured every single child. If we considered it our watchword as community to ensure that every single child was supported and nurtured. If it became the norm for our community to say, “It doesn’t matter where you live in our city, every school that you attend is a great school; all of them.” Investing in every child in our community is really an investment in ourselves and our future. If some kids need more - then fine, we make sure that they have what they need. We feed them breakfast. We hand them a pencil. We make it clear that they are important and that they matter. We make it clear that their future matters because their future is our future. You need a calculator? You need a book? You need a sandwich? I got you. It seems like a radical concept, but it shouldn’t.
We understand on an intellectual level the power of community. We see it in stories when people gather to give a car to a deserving kid who has been walking an hour to work each day. We see it when a group of strangers form a human chain to rescue a dog. Yet, in our day to day lives we ignore the most obvious power of community; we rise together. If I reach out to lend a hand to lift a neighbor, I am also lifting myself. My neighborhood becomes better, stronger, and so in helping someone else, I am really helping myself.
I should mention that I am hugely flawed. I say this just in case you are thinking, “Man she has got it together.” I 100% don’t. The fact that I was thinking about this the other day was because I was reflection on mistakes I’d made about being supportive to a student. Sometimes, I don’t do all I can. Sometimes, I get tired, or even irritated. I try to never, ever let my emotions impact my teaching - that isn’t fair to my students, but sometimes, after a student has asked my forty-seven times if they really, really have to finish their writing, I get snippy. And yet, constant, steady support is what every kid needs. Constant support and care makes it possible for kids to thrive, but first, very first of all, you have to make sure they aren’t hungry.
If you live in my town, there are plenty of schools where kids and parents are struggling over paying the outstanding bill for their lunches. Fortunately, in our district, we don’t withhold food because of this, however, that bill weighs heavy on those families. If you have a couple of bucks — maybe donate toward some of those bills. If you have a fat, stack of cash, maybe pay some of them off. You aren’t just doing that good work for the student you’ve never met. You aren’t just feeding them; you are feeding your own community. You are ensuring that it grows up strong and healthy so that all who live there can focus on the work in front of them.
If you want to change the world, you are going to have to kill hunger.