This Photo Of A Teacher's Snack Cupboard Shows The Unspoken Way Teachers Help Hungry Students

"We don't want them to be hungry."

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but for many kids from low income families, they often go to school hungry. And sometimes there aren't any meals when they come home. No Kid Hungry points out that a staggering 13 million kids in America aren't getting the food they need with one in five households finding it difficult to get food on the table.

Teacher Sarah Gibson Howton recently highlighted how teachers are helping with this problem. She shared a photo of her snack cupboard on the Love What Matters Facebook page and explained the importance of it,

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"We are your children's teachers. We know that we may have more time with your child than you do. We don't want them to be hungry, and not just because a hungry child can't learn but because we care about them. Hungry feels scary. Almost every teacher I know has a cabinet in their classroom with emergency food for their hungry students. This is the cabinet I share with another teacher, Julie Mack. Children come into our classroom everyday telling us they are hungry. Many more never say a word because they are embarrassed and it is up to us to notice that they are distracted, tired, grumpy. Skilled and compassionate teachers learn to ask if there is food in the house and when was the last time you ate? And the really skilled teachers just know when to make an extra sandwich, grab an orange, make a bag of popcorn or bowl of oatmeal, and set it in front of a student and tell them to eat. And YES, that is a jar of peanut butter. It has not been a problem."

Howton is a teacher at the Reynolds Learning Academy, a Title 1 school in Fairview, Oregon, where many students come from at-risk backgrounds where food may not be readily available. She explained to the Huffington Post that she never publicly discussed feeding students because it is such a common practice for teachers. However, she was spurred to write about it after Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, stated that there was "no demonstrable evidence" that after-school programs that help feed kids benefited their educations.

Howton's goal is to also reduce the stigma and shame around poverty and kids eating food that is provided for them.

In a follow-up to her post, she wrote, "I would never want my students to feel embarrassed that they eat the food we provide. Unfortunately, we have tied poverty to shame. I really don't want my students to feel shame. The really great thing we have is that our students come in and take what they need freely."

She added, "Food not only satisfies their stomachs but it nourishes them. Our students aren't nourished. When I have a group of girls sitting together munching on apple slices and peanut butter working on their geometry, they are being nourished. And that whole scene started because a girl told me she had a headache. When I offered her a glass of water, she declined and said she just hadn't eaten all day. The two other girls got up and made her that snack. Feeling hungry feels scary. If satisfying their stomach makes them feel less afraid, less anxious, more cared for, everything else becomes easier."

Other teachers are echoing Howton's thoughts with their own tales. And other Facebook users are writing about the teachers who helped them when they were in need of food and supplies. One person wrote, "I rarely had school supplies (or breakfast) and my third grade teacher gave me a box of markers as a gift one day. I was embarrassed and started to cry. She took me in the hall and hugged me." 

"Good teachers are the greatest," she added.

Another said, "I will never forget the kindness of my first grade teacher. I didn't have the type of parents who made sure I had breakfast and i would sit in class with a rumbling stomach most days. One day it was particularly noticeable during a quiet time, and she took me into the hallway and gave me crackers from her purse so the other kids wouldn't see. I'll never forget that."

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