10 Ways Students are Hungry and Three Things We Can Do About It

by | Nov 5, 2015 | School Climate, Student Engagement, Uncategorized, Youth Voice

There are several campaigns to address student hunger, recognizing that too many students arrive at school hungry, have inadequate nutritional food during the day and return home hungry.

No Kid Hungry, the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Campaign to Solve Student Hunger are examples of initiatives responding to research that students’ health or lack thereof impacts their development in schools and their lives.

I want to use these efforts to focus on 10 other ways that students are hungry and suggest strategies we can implement to respond to their hunger.  I do acknowledge the biological factors that influence student development and want to expand the framework to include social factors relevant to student development.

So, with that in mind, here are 10 other ways students are hungry based on over 30 years of my experience with students in schools throughout the U.S. and in several other nations. Students are hungry for:

  1. Safe environments for them to fully develop
  2. Teaching methods that actively engage them
  3. Opportunities to be part of teams with their peers and other students
  4. Class projects that connect them to their communities
  5. Opportunities to gain leadership skills and be leaders
  6. Trusting relationships with adults in the school
  7. Respect from others in the school
  8. Opportunities to be acknowledged for their abilities and skills
  9. Frequent opportunities to contribute to their school and community
  10. School experiences that are relevant to their interests

I believe we can implement and sustain a set of three complementary strategies in response to students’ hunger.  The three general strategies are (1) measure and enhance school climate, (2) support active pedagogies and (3) engage each student in meaningful ways.

School climate is the quality and character of a school and provides the context in which everyone in the school understands and supports a set of core values.  A positive school climate provides safety for students and adults, ensures equitable opportunities for each student, encourages collaborations and supports a physical environment conducive to health and wellness.  There are several high-quality tools to measure and enhance school climate including those developed by the National School Climate Center.  The first step is to measure school climate using a reliable instrument that engages students, teachers and parents as respondents; the second is to use the information to highlight areas of success and areas for improvement and the third step is to include school climate as an essential element of the school’s accountability system.  School climate improvement responds to the students’ hunger for safety and engagement as well as their need for trusting relationships.

Active pedagogies such as project-based learning and service-learning address students’ hunger to work as a member of a team, focus on projects, connect with their community, acknowledge their skills and contribute in positive ways.  These pedagogies focus on academic knowledge and skills as well as assist students to acquire and enhance the competencies expected of each successful graduate (such as decision-making, teamwork, effective communication, collaboration and critical thinking) to be successful in life.

Engagement responds to students’ hunger for relevancy and acknowledgement of their abilities and skills.  Thus, not only should we ensure our teaching methods are engaging but also that other school and extra curricular activities are engaging for students as well.  School engagement opportunities include student leadership opportunities through student council, student clubs and team sports as well as leading “parent-teacher-student” conferences and participating in art, theatre arts and music performances.   Engagement also refers to trusting students to create and make choices of activities they feel align with their interests and skills.  This is not to turn over the school to students but to engage them in creating options and choices within the context of school offerings.

I appreciate that there is national advocacy for reducing student hunger and suggest we expand students’ biological needs with social and emotional hunger they feel when addressed will provide the greatest opportunity for them to be successful in school and life.

Engaging students begins by recognizing that each student should be offered the opportunity to be engaged, rather than select some students for engagement and ignoring others. While this equitable emphasis is challenging we should not allow it to overshadow our commitment to provide high-quality opportunities for each student to be engaged.

Terry Pickeral
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Terry Pickeral

Terry Pickeral, has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations, evaluation and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.
Terry Pickeral
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