New study shows link between food insecurity and school performance
COLUMBIA - Food insecurity can affect the academic and social performance of students, according to a new study.
"It's a known fact that students who go without food don't perform as well in the classroom and that's why information like this is so important," said Lindsay Lopez, executive director of the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.
The study by Georgetown University and the University of Virginia found food insecurity can affect a child's ability to think through problems and interact with other students.
In Boone County alone, almost 18.4 percent of young people under the age of 18 experience food uncertainty.
"We know that there is a direct correlation between children who do not have access to sufficient nutritious food and them struggling in school, having medical issues and all sorts of problems," said Lopez.
She said schools such as Gentry Middle School and West Middle School have found ways to partner with programs to make sure students are able to perform at the best of their abilities.
Columbia Public Schools has a Nutrition Services department that seeks to ensure students have access both the meals and the nutrition that they need to be successful.
Almost 86 percent of students in local school districts are eligible and participate in the National School Lunch Program.
Director of Nutrition Services Laina Fullum said the purpose of her department is to advocate for the health of students both inside and outside of the classroom.
"We understand that we play a huge part in student's lives and it's important for us to be aware that some of the students in our district receive their only source of food when they come to school. So it's a very important aspect of what we do."
But, CPS's role in feeding students only happens Monday through Friday. On weekends, organizations such as the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri step in to fill the gap.
The Buddy Pack program is a program at the food bank that feeds thousands of students each year. Students who qualify for the program receive a buddy pack each Friday and the packages are delivered to their school. Each pack consists of foods like apples, cereal and other snacks that make it easy for younger students who cannot cook to feed themselves.
Lopez said the program may be one of the most expensive but also one of the most important.
"One in 5 students in this area are food insecure. And understand that although we give out thousands of these buddy packs, we are still only reaching a small percentage of students who are food insecure."
The Buddy Pack program has a fund of a little over one million dollars, allowing the food bank to sustain it as a permanent program.
Lopez said she hopes the percentage of food insecure children both locally and nationally decrease in the years to come.
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