The Invisible Signs to Look for on the First Day of School

Hunger and Homelessness Hamper Kids’ Ability to Learn

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Some children start the school year early not to get a better education, but to have a nutritious meal and shelter during the day. Photo: Cheryl Gerber for The Hechinger Report
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As we begin the school year, let’s not ignore the signs of poverty in the United States. Some families can afford to spend their August on vacation, learning from new places. Travel is an excellent teacher. However, there will be some children who will need to start school, not to get a better education, but to have a nutritious meal and shelter during the day. Many of those students will enter the school year with obvious signs of poverty: old, dirty uniforms, worn-down shoes and teeth that need a dentist’s chair. But we should not ignore the things we can’t see: low-quality health care, persistent hunger and housing insecurity.

When I look at public schools in the U.S., like my son, I ask, “Is this a poor country?”

The United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a household condition of low or limited access to sufficient amounts of food, resulting in hunger. According to a 2016 report by the No Kid Hungry campaign, run by the nonprofit Share Our Strength, one in six children — about 13 million kids — experiences food insecurity in the United States. The same report found that 22 million kids depend on…

 

 

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