The corporate education reform movement is fond of claiming that poverty is no excuse for children failing to succeed in school.
Their level of ignorance is astounding.
Hunger is just one of the devastating outcomes related to the level of widespread poverty in the United States and these factors are keeping tens of millions of children from doing better in school.
Researchers recognize that “out of school factors” (OSF) have a significant and dramatic impact on a child’s level of academic success. Although there are a variety of important steps the nation must take to improve its schools, children actually spend less than 15% of their time in school, meaning non-school issues have an incredible impact on a child’s in-school success..
And while quality education programs make a difference, there are a series of socio-demographic factors that have a profound impact on how well children actually do with their time in school.
One of the most pronounced impediments to learning is hunger, often called “food insecurity” in the parlance of public policy.
The evidence is overwhelming that the lack of sufficient food undermines an individual’s ability to function and it has an especially devastating impact on children.
And hunger is a very real problem in this country, especially when it comes to a significant number of the nation’s children. According to the USDA, in 2015:
- 42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children.
- 13 percent of households (15.8 million households) were food insecure (meaning they suffered from inadequate food supplies on a regular basis).
- 5 percent of households (6.3 million households) experienced very low food security (meaning they were without sufficient food much of the time).
- Households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 17 percent compared to 11 percent.
- Households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (17%), especially households with children headed by single women (30%) or single men (22%).
- Twenty percent or more of the child population in 30 states and D.C. lived in food-insecure households in 2014. According to the most recent data, Mississippi (27%) and New Mexico (27%) had the highest rates of children in households without consistent access to food in 2014.
As of 2014 study, the rate of food insecurity in Connecticut was about 13.9% with approximately 6.0% being very food insecure. However, the percentage of people that went hungry, especially the percentage of children, was much higher in the state’s poorer cities and towns.
The academic studies prove, beyond a doubt, that hunger and poverty are major contributors to the school achievement gap in Connecticut and across the nation.
Closing the large achievement gap in the United States and Connecticut will not take place until out of school factors, like hunger, are successfully addressed.