How Hunger Affects School Performance

BY Dyron Howell | 6-28-2017

kids-reading-books-in-classroom-libraryDespite what the majority of Americans want to believe, hunger isn’t an issue that affects only third-world countries. Rather, it’s a near-epidemic right here in our own backyard.

With more than 40 percent of households in the United States living below poverty level, it’s no surprise that hunger plagues many families, most of which include children. Sadly, there are approximately 13 million American children to date who live with or are at high risk of hunger.

Cognitive Effects Of Child Hunger

As most people know, the early years of life are the most crucial in terms of development, both physical and mental. Chronic hunger results in a lack of vitamins and minerals that are necessary for a child to reach developmental milestones.

According to a study of undernutrition in children by the United Nation’s Children Fun, children who come from food-insecure homes, meaning they aren’t sure where their next meal will come from, are often shorter than average height for their age or significantly underweight. But more than that, these kids may also experience learning disabilities and other cognitive impairments.

These cognitive concerns stem, according to the Center for Disease Control, from two major effects of hunger: the inability to focus and excessive absences due to illness. The first of these two is somewhat obvious. It’s difficult for a child to focus on learning when he or she is experiencing the painful effects of chronic hunger.

The second cause, however, takes a bit more analysis. According to kidshealth.org, if a child is hungry, his or her immune system suffers as a result of a lack of vital nutrients. This leads to repeated illnesses, which in turn leads to several missed days of school, making it nearly impossible for the child to keep up with school work.

When you consider these effects of hunger as causes of cognitive developmental issues in children, it’s not hard to make the connection.  

high-schooler-at-desk-studying-classroomSociability Effects Of Child Hunger

In addition to physical and cognitive negative effects, hunger often results in emotional and social roadblocks, according to Feeding America. Children experiencing hunger may feel ashamed and have trouble connecting with their peers. This can often lead to verbal or physical altercations between children.

That being said, hunger is sometimes at the root of many behavior problems that often lead to missed school lessons (if a child gets suspended, for example). This further contributes to the cognitive effects mentioned above.


Making A Difference

The situation seems dire, but there is hope. Through organizations like Snack Paks 4 Kids, children across the country are getting the nutritious foods they need to thrive.

Want to make a difference in a child’s life? Share this with someone you know!

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Topics: Hunger, Education