Nutrition and Learning Readiness
November 7, 2021
What did you eat for dinner last night? Did you leave the table feeling full and content, and ready to spend your evening with enough energy to engage in a hobby, a household project, or go for a walk?
Last night, more than 5,000 children in Monroe County may not have had enough of a meal to satisfy their hunger. Their night was spent peeking into a bare refrigerator or cupboard and feeling a deep ache in their stomach – and this might occur several days each week.
Food insecurity leads to other long-lasting issues too. The lack of available and nutritious food in some households delays the ability of children to learn, decreases their ability to be physically active, and could lead to serious lifelong illness. When children are hungry, their ability to learn is reduced. They may have lower test scores than their peers and exhibit distracting behaviors in the classroom. Hunger deprives children from learning and eventually deteriorates their ability to excel later in their academic career.
Years ago, I had the responsibility of running a food pantry in a community like Stroudsburg. Our downtown mission provided enough food for a few days, based on family size. The hope was that we could bridge the gap between the next paycheck, Social Security payment, or food stamp renewal to keep the family fed.
However, even the support of a food pantry would not be enough, in most cases, to stave off hunger. In our local school districts, the percentage of children who qualify for free or reduced lunch ranges between 40% to 60% of all students. So, more than half our county’s children live in households that have the potential to experience food insecurity. Food insecurity, which is not simply defined as not having groceries but is the lack of a household to provide nutritionally adequate food.
As a board member for Pocono Mountains United Way, I am proud that our organization has invested dollars, time, and energy into addressing hunger issues in Monroe County. United Way sponsors the Double Bucks program, which is a way for families that use food stamps to double the amount of money they have to spend when they purchase fresh food from market vendors at Monroe Farmer’s Market. United Way has also helped to establish the Hunger Coalition (https://poconohunger.org/), providing an easy to navigate website for families to find food pantries and for the community to find places to donate food, money, or time to area food pantries. Finally, United Way has also partnered with Second Harvest of the Lehigh Valley to help keep area food pantries shelves stocked with nutritious food.
As a school board director, I am grateful for the many people in our county who are dedicated to addressing and relieving hunger. The impact they make helps to ensure our children are ready to learn and achieve their highest potential. You can make a difference by donating to United Way which helps to increase access to food for many local residents. Your actions will support our efforts to ensure that all children start strong, so that they may ensure a bright future.
Board Member, Pocono Mountains United Way