Teachers know. That’s why they keep food in their desks.
Years ago, when one of my children was in elementary school, one of her classmates was caught stealing food from another student. This happened in the Red River Valley in a neighborhood school where most of the children walked to school down tree-lined streets where the houses on either side had full refrigerators and pantries. A place where the last thing you would ever imagine was a child who was hungry enough, at the age of eight, to steal a sandwich “for later” so she’d have something once she got home from school. When you’re hungry, the time between one school lunch and another is a really long time.
I’ve been thinking about that little girl from long ago a lot lately as I listen to politicians talk about cuts to educational spending that include free and reduced lunches and remembering what lunchtime meant back when I was a kid. Do you remember school lunches?
Lining up along the hallway? Going past the office lady who checked for your name on a list or punched a ticket? Taking a flat plastic tray and silverware and having the items placed in just the rights spots? Do you remember the turkey gravy and mashed potatoes? The spaghetti with meat sauce? The large slabs of cheese pizza? Homemade hotdog buns and dinner rolls? The pieces of fresh fruit and cartons of milk? The lunch ladies were some of the best cooks in town. Of course, as we got older and had Open Lunch and a little extra cash in our pockets, sometimes no matter how good the lunch at school was, all we wanted to do was run uptown and buy pop and taco chips. There wasn’t much anyone could do about our life choices as teenagers. The point was that nutritious food was there, in school, if we chose to eat it. Throughout our growing up years, most of us did whether our parents could afford it or not.
Food was the great equalizer. You were hungry and got in line with your peers. You got fed and went back to class. Maybe you took it for granted, like the fact that when you got home in the afternoon and wanted an after school snack, that there would be something to eat. Or maybe that hot lunch was the only hot meal you were going to get for the day and so you never once took it for granted.
All I know is this.
Teachers keep food in their desks. In elementary schools and middle schools, in high schools, and yes, in colleges. In communities that are poor and in ones that are affluent, too. If you ask ten politicians why this happens, you’ll get ten different answers.
If you ask a teacher, you’ll get just one.
You can’t fill a mind when a stomach is empty. It’s elementary.