Last year, our cafeteria workers started leaving a bowl of apples out each afternoon after regular food service had ended for the day. I think they were leftover apples from the students’ daily salad and fruit bar. I held daily rehearsals after school in the cafeteria for our production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” which had a cast of approximately fifty kindergarten through eighth-grade students. This being an ambitious show for such little people, our rehearsals were held for an hour and a half every afternoon. The kids poured through the doors of the cafeteria ravenous after a full day of classroom learning. Some would bring a snack from home but many were not in a position to be able to do so.
After watching a particularly lean boy eyeing someone else’s snack longingly, I remembered the bowl of apples I had noticed earlier in the day and tossed one to the grateful boy. I was immediately surrounded (in a way that only elementary teachers can appreciate) by a tiny, ravenous mob. Their grins with apple juice running down their chins stuck with me.
The idea for a Community Snack Bowl for my classroom was born.
Teachers know (and research corroborates) that lack of snack contributes to poor attention, attitude, and concentration. I’ve seen this first-hand through countless kids putting their heads down on their desks or complaining of stomach pain and hunger. It’s really hard to focus on learning about the Gettysburg Address when you feel like your stomach is “eating itself” as one student told me last year. Even my students who eat regularly at home can have hunger issues at school because fifth grade has the last lunch of the day at 1:10pm. That’s a long morning to go without a snack, even for their teacher.
I started asking for donations of apples and cheese and cracker packs. I have several students with severe peanut allergies so I monitor every food that comes into the room carefully and know that those are peanut-safe, semi-healthy and filling foods that most kids will eat. I fill the bowl myself sometimes, but I have more often relied on parents that have the means to donate. Some community members have even filled the bowl a few times.
It may seem like a small idea to some people reading this post. But it has made a world of difference to my students. In fact, one of my students who was running for Student Council Class Representative ran on a platform of “Keeping the Community Snack Bowl full!”
How do you manage hunger in your classroom?