Think back on your primary school days. Do you remember a kid who was always in trouble with the teacher? What did you think of him or her?

Would your opinion of this kid change if I told you he or she was suffering from hunger?

Image: Flickr: World Bank Photo Collection

According to the American Psychological Association, a study that classified low-income children ages six to twelve as “hungry," “at-risk for hunger,” or “not hungry” found that hungry children exhibited 7 to 12 times as many symptoms of conduct disorder (such as fighting, blaming others for problems, having trouble with a teacher, not listening to rules, stealing, etc.) than their at-risk or not-hungry peers.  

The same study found that hungry children were significantly more likely to receive special education services, to have repeated a grade in school, and to have received mental health counseling than at-risk-for-hunger or not-hungry children.  

It goes without saying that skipping a meal (or two, or three...) can suck the energy right out of a person. In fact, I experienced this just yesterday. I skipped breakfast and lunch, and by 6:00 PM, I could barely put an e-mail together.

How is a hungry kid expected to breeze through a math test?

To make matters worse, lack of access to nutritious food from the start of pregnancy through the first three years of a child's life can lead to lasting deficits in cognitive, social and emotional development.

That's right, I said nutritious. Keeping pregnant women and children fed isn't just about giving them more access to food; it's about giving them access to foods rich in important vitamins and nutrients.

Did you know that iodine deficiency can cause mental development problems, including lower IQ levels in school-aged children? Also, iron deficiency during infancy can delay development and make older kids less active and less able to concentrate.

This means that a child who has experienced chronic malnutrition since birth faces a lengthy list of challenges that limit his or her chances of excelling in school.  

FACT: 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world.

FACT: 60% of the world's hungry are women.

FACT: 1 out of 6 infants are born with a low birthweight in developing countries.

In June, the leaders of the world’s 7 biggest industrialized powers committed to lifting 500 million people out of hunger by 2030. Global citizens, this is your chance to remind the US that this commitment is important. Classrooms around the world should be places of learning, not hunger.

TAKE ACTION NOW. Sign the petition calling on the US Congress to support the Global Food Security Act.


Defeat Poverty

The issue that's affecting schoolchildren around the world

By Caryn Carver