“Feed them well, and let them lead the way.”

by | Apr 17, 2019 | #feedingfutures | 0 comments

The following guest blog post is from Scott Andree Bowen, who works closely with Second Harvest as the Director of Youth and Food Pantry Ministries at Maple Springs United Methodist Church. Scott is also a member of the Winston-Salem Urban Food Policy Council, overseeing the Breakfast in Classroom Task Force.

Last night, while driving to my in-laws, the classic Whitney Houston song, “Greatest Love of All”, with its iconic first line, “I believe the children are our future, Teach them well and let them lead the way.” came on the radio. As I drove, my mind began to meditate on these words. We claim the importance of children and their potential leadership; but do we truly invest in our children like they are our future?

My name is Scott Andree Bowen and I am an advocate for the children of Forsyth County. I am a former educator in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth School District. I am currently the Director of Youth and Food Pantry Ministries at Maple Springs United Methodist Church on Reynolda Rd. I am also a member of the Winston-Salem Urban Food Policy Council, overseeing the Breakfast in Classroom Task Force.

Our children are our future, but our children are not being equally fed to be our future leaders.

According to Second Harvest Food Bank of NWNC, 21.7% of the children in Forsyth County come from families that are food insecure. To many of us, 21.7% is a just a number, with no face to go along with the number. As a former teacher at a Title 1 middle school, I can put many faces to that number. Many of my former students came to school hungry, some, not having a meal since the previous day’s school lunch.

As a teacher, the school day began at 7:00 am, with many of the students beginning their day much earlier than this to catch the bus. Many of these students did not have the opportunity to eat breakfast. At this school, breakfast was free for all students, but only a small percentage of students ate. Some did not want to spend time in the cafeteria. Some forgot to eat. Some were tardy to school and missed the chance to eat breakfast. The policy for the school was to only eat food in the cafeteria, and once you go to homeroom, you could not leave. Many times, a student who came to class hungry asked to leave to eat, and was unable to due to this policy.

As adults, we tend to forget how long we had to sit in a school desk, focus on instructions from the teacher, and be expected to work on assignments. We also forget the struggle that is the development of our bodies and minds. In a society of instant gratification, remaining focused during class can be a difficult task. Imagine being a child, being asked to focus on math with an empty stomach. Adults tend to use the term “hangry” to explain their mood. Just in the time it has taken me to write these few paragraphs, I have taken a coffee break, had lunch and taken a nap. Most adults are given that benefit, why do we not give the same benefit to children?

The pantry at Maple Springs.

Our public school system is highly driven by test scores. These scores determine if the school is of a quality standard that matches the goals placed on them by the state. EOQ, EOG, Benchmarks, are how we judge the grades of schools. These scores are not meant to judge what a student has learned, but what a school has taught. This educational philosophy is so score focused that it does not care for the whole child. Our schools need to focus on the whole child, which should include hunger.

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published his “Theory of Human Motivation”. This is where we are introduced to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Visualize a pyramid; at the base is Physiological needs. Physiological needs include air, water, food, shelter, sleep, and clothing. Food is essential to our development and our survival. We need education to serve out our callings as members of society, but, education cannot happen effectively without first meeting these primary needs. Education is important to the success of all of us.

If a construction company only built up one part a foundation of a new house, the house would crumble. The whole foundation of the house must be built up to make it a strong house. If we look at a child, like Maslow’s hierarchy pyramid, they need food to form the foundation of their lives. If a child does not have this foundation, then how do we expect them to build anything further?

It is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast in school needs to be a part of the change for the children of our community. If we want them to focus, if we want them to learn, we need to make breakfast an important part of each day. With this foundation, we can then add on to their pyramid.
According to information from No Kid Hungry NC, “11,009 students are in the Breakfast Gap. This is the number of Free/Reduced Price-eligible students eating lunch, but not school breakfast.” We are missing so many opportunities to provide that important start to a child’s day. Breakfast needs to be viewed as an instructional time that helps build our children. This is a time when we fuel the students for the upcoming day.

There is always a lot to say about our education system. Here are few things that are true. Our teachers need to be paid their worth. Buildings should be a safe and healthy environment for our students. Education should focus on the whole child, not just a part them. Feed them well, and let them lead the way.

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