Tuesday, November 04, 2014

'Classroom Crusader' Keeps First Graders from Going Hungry

As a first-grade teacher in the Albuquerque public schools, where he's been working for 21 years now, Callahan has seen too many children coming to school hungry. When he first started working, Callahan says, he had no idea that so many kids and families were suffering to the degree of being homeless or unable to feed their children dinner each nightfrom an article in The Huffington Post
I was going to put together a  blog post to simply celebrate Marvin Callahan, a teacher at Comanche Elementary School in Albuquerque, who has been recognized for his efforts to address hunger in the classroom. The Huffington Post wrote a great article in September about his efforts to ensure that his first graders and their families would have enough to eat on weekends. He recently appeared on the Meredith Vieira's Classroom Crusaders (see video below).

I want to take that a step further and talk about how the social safety net in a country as wealthy as ours is full of holes. But first, let me recognize the creative and dedicated Comanche Elementary School teacher. According to The Huffington Post, Callahan  learned that many of the students at the school lived in households where the family did not have enough to eat on  the weekends. Even though the school is located near Comanche and Pennsylvania--not necessarily one of  the poorest areas of town--statistics who that over 60 percent of students qualify for the federal free or reduced-priced lunch program.

Two years ago,  Callahan, with the help of school counselor Karin Medina and other community members, started a backpack program (using their own funds)  to send kids home with food on Friday afternoon. The backpack had enough food for families to  prepare two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners.

"Callahan does everything he can to provide for his students, at least during school hours," said the article in The Huffington Post, posted on Sept. 24. "Every morning, he begins the day by asking the 18 students in his first-grade class if they've eaten breakfast that morning, and if they haven't, he sends them to the cafeteria for a meal or gives them a snack from his supply closet--paid for out of his own pocket."

Holes in the Safety Net
Now, to the problem with the inadequate safety net. The situation at Comanche Elementary School is a microcosm of what is happening in our country. "One in seven Americans, more than 46 million people, including 12 million children, rely on food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families", according to a study that Feeding America released in August. Some 200 food banks are affiliated with Feeding America, including Roadrunner Food Bank in Albuquerque.

"Together, charitable food assistance and federal nutrition assistance programs weave a nutritional safety net for households in need; however, despite participation in one or both of these modes of assistance, many Feeding America client households continue to struggle with food insecurity, which can lead to difficult choices, including spending tradeoffs and coping strategies," said the report.  Here is the Executive Summary See the  Full Report

There is no excuse for families to go hungry in a country as wealthy as ours.  We need to strengthen the social safety net and fully fund programs that allow families to have access to nutritious food. There is no reason why Marvin Callahan would have  to step in. And yet, in  the absence of  a national commitment to end hunger, we give thanks to God for the Marvin Callahans of the world.

KOAT link

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