When poor students don’t eat, they don’t learn. We can fix that | Opinion

When poor students don’t eat, they don’t learn. We can fix that | Opinion

In Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the silent, invisible existence of poverty often reveals itself through some children’s growling stomachs Concealed within the brick and mortar of our schools and classrooms are countless children who come from homes in which each day abject poverty leads to questions not of reading, math, science, or social studies. Rather, many students struggle to answer questions about how they will satisfy a basic need after the final school bell has rung: “Where will I get my next meal?

The nexus between student learning and nutrition is well known. Proper nutrition has proven critical in students’ cognitive, emotional and physical functioning. Students who have access to balanced, nutritious, and healthy meals perform better in the areas of behavior, attendance, and academics than students who do not. The lack of access to healthy, nutritious meals often poses a serious threat and barrier to school-aged students living in poverty and severely impedes their ability to maximize their learning and realize life-long success.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) remains committed to the education of its students, as well as to supporting and empowering families and members of the community. Easing and eliminating poverty and hunger are significant ways to not only improve student learning, but also the quality of life of their families, of which more than 75 percent in Miami-Dade County live in poverty.

In 2018, Feeding South Florida announced the Map the Meal Gap 2018 report, which revealed that approximately 240,190 children go to bed hungry every night and come from families that do not know where they will get their next meal. Despite these vexing statistics, schools and school districts across the country, including Miami-Dade, continue to experience high levels of food waste. However, there are many ways schools can reduce food waste and teach students about the impact it has on the environment and in their community. As the nation’s fourth-largest school district, it is critically important that Miami-Dade County Public Schools develops and implements novel and innovative solutions to not only help feed hungry students in our schools and families throughout our communities, but to also reduce and work to eliminate school waste.

At the April 17 meeting of the Miami-Dade County School Board, I will propose Agenda Item H-3 — “Elimination of Food Waste and The Exploration of Food Sharing Programs” — to address both the needs of far too many students living in poverty and struggling with the daily pains of hunger and begin to eliminate food waste in our schools.

To learn more, visit dadeschools.net/schoolboard/agenda/h3.pdf. It is through lending our collective voice and actions to these issues, that we can further silence children’s growling stomachs throughour efforts to give louder voice to their learning and life-long success.

Steve Gallon III represents District 1 on the Miami-Dade County School Board.

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