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Food Insecurity in Education

During the schooldays, breakfast and lunch are usually provided for students. A typical breakfast and lunch at a school would vary from day to day, from time to time with more than one meal option. Schools usually promote healthy eating habits, providing students with nourishing meals that consist of grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and protein. This is the ideal atmosphere of a school lunchroom. However, there are issues highlighted within the education system and the eating habits of schools. 

Students typically spend five out of seven days of their week in school, taking up a large part of their daily lives. Schools must provide enough food for students throughout the day. According to FEEST Seattle, “only about 1 in 6 students reported feeling full after eating school lunch.” The issue of having students not feeling full after a school lunch may cause them to be hungry throughout the school day. This may lead to potential lack of attention spans and energy during class lectures and assignments. Due to their lack of attention, this may leave students struggling in school and educational material. To add to that, according to No Kid Hungry’s 2017 research, “over 13 million children from low-income families go to school hungry.” School lunches statistically aren’t filling for students and students may return home to not enough healthy foods. 

Schools that lack funding may ask students to pay for meals even if they qualify for reduced or free lunches, taking into consideration that low-income countries are not able to provide this benefit for students. This suggests that many students who may not be able to pay for school lunches are not able to eat during school or focus on spending money to pay for lunch. Financial insecurity throughout childhood can cause long-term implications because students may experience additional stress on top of scholastic stress, forcing them to prioritize financial demands above school at a young age. According to the Education Data Initiative, “30.4 million students can’t afford their school meals.” Many students aren’t given enough food throughout the day or simply can’t afford it, leading them to feel hungry both at school and at home. This can lead to an increase of malnutrition of students and a decrease in academic performance since many students may be thinking about when their next meal is. It is a basic human right to have access to healthy and filling foods, but many students to this day don’t have this right, explaining their shift of focus from education to food.

Food accessibility is not the only problem the education system faces. There are issues such as students not having enough time to properly eat their foods, the quality of the food such as freshness and variety, and thus students’ desires to eat more snacks instead of healthier foods. In schools, there are also vending machines that sell varieties of chips, cookies, candy, and snacks that may look more tempting than frozen foods from the school. Food instability has an impact on a child's concentration, memory, mood, and motor abilities, all of which are necessary for academic performance. It’s not only an issue of healthy eating habits promotion, but also the lack of funding and care towards the education system. Providing students with a growing environment, having quality food, and stressing the importance of healthy eating can go a long way.

Works Cited

“Facts About Childhood Hunger in America.” No Kid Hungry, Accessed 17 February 2024.

FEEST Seattle. “Survey: 1 in 4 students skip school lunch.” FEEST Seattle, 7 March 2019, Accessed 17 February 2024.

“Food for Thought: How Food Insecurity Affects a Child’s Education.” American Youth Policy Forum, 24 August 2015, Accessed 17 February 2024.

Hanson, Melanie. “School Lunch Debt Statistics [2023]: Total + Costs per Student.” Education Data Initiative, 9 January 2024, Accessed 17 February 2024.

“How Does Hunger Affect Learning? l No Kid Hungry.” No Kid Hungry, 24 April 2023, Accessed 17 February 2024.

Sparks, Sarah D., and Adrianna Prothero. “Teachers Say Students Don't Have Enough Time to Eat Lunch. Here's How to Change That.” Education Week, 20 September 2023, Accessed 17 February 2024.

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