Teachers are unsung heroes who often go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure a child has a better shot at life. Whether tackling complicated math problems or schooling us on history, these educators remain on the front line and have a willingness to get in the trenches to make sure no child is left behind. I will always love and respect those who take up this call -- including Katherine Gibson Howton, an Oregon high school teacher who refuses to let any of her students go hungry.
Whether you realize an estimated 42.1 million Americans -- including 13.1 million children -- reside in food insecure households, or are aware of potential threats to the National School Lunch Program that have the power to affect so many children who look to school lunches as a reliable meal, this teacher's Facebook photo of her cabinet of emergency food should put things in perspective.
... Because many children are hungry and are sometimes too ashamed or embarassed to speak up.
Katherine Gibson Howton/Facebook"Almost every teacher I know has a cabinet in their classroom with emergency food for their hungry students," Howton reveals on Facebook. She continues:
Children come into our classroom [every day] telling us they are hungry. Many more never say a word because they are embarrassed and it is up to us to notice that they are distracted, tired, grumpy.
Skilled and compassionate teachers learn to ask if there is food in the house and when was the last time you ate? And the really skilled teachers just know when to make an extra sandwich, grab an orange, make a bag of popcorn or bowl of oatmeal, and set it in front of a student and tell them to eat.
And YES, that is a jar of peanut butter. It has not been a problem.
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No educator should ever have a cabinet of food to feed his or her students, because food insecurity shouldn't be an issue kids have to deal with, but sadly it is -- which makes such a resource like this a true godsend.
My heart is filled with so much joy for awesome teachers, like Katherine, who recognize such a heartbreaking issue like hunger exists and say not on my watch -- or in my class. As Katherine notes in her Facebook post, "We are your children's teachers. We know that we may have more time with your child than you do. We don't want them to be hungry, and not just because a hungry child can't learn but because we care about them."
Contrary to naysayers, Feeding America notes access to adequate nutrition can have positive effects on children -- including the reduced risk of having to repeat a grade or deal with developmental impairments and behavorial issues that can have a lasting effect on a child. Experts in this area have also determined that federally funded school meal programs, in particular, can improve academic success and reduce poverty -- which should make all of us realize just how much one meal a day can make a difference.
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As someone who grew up in a food insecure home -- often shuffling between family members' houses and sometimes only having boxed stuffing and iced tea for a meal -- this makes me emotional ... No matter how bad things got, I never spoke up about what was happening at home (likely out of embarassment). I feel for children who come to Katherine and other teachers' classes hungry and can only hope things will change at home that will make the scariness that is food insecurity a thing of the past.
Thank you, Katherine, for proving there are still kindhearted individuals who lead with selflessness to make this world a better place. (Teachers are so damn amazing.)
I believe in community and making a difference, and I believe change starts with us.