When the bell rings to start the day, school nurses prepare for the unforeseen—fever, headache and tummy trouble. For many kids, school nurses are important lifelines to well-being and academic success. Parents and teachers know that healthy students learn better and school nurses help make that happen. More and more school nurses have to fight a foreseen epidemic—child hunger.
It’s one thing to hear that one in six households in Louisiana are at risk of hunger. It’s another to be on the front lines as a school nurse and see the side effects day in and day out. Not having adequate and consistent food is harmful to anyone, but it is particularly devastating to children. Limited intakes of nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy foods can have serious and sometimes lifelong consequences on a child’s health and academic achievement.
As a school nurse, I have assessed students complaining of body trembling, sweating, headaches and feeling hunger. When asked if they have eaten breakfast or lunch, they answered, “no.” In our community, children sometimes miss meals at homes because of insufficient funds to purchase groceries. Parents who struggle financially often fix non-nutritional meals because it costs less money. Children going without wholesome meals have a hard time concentrating in class.
Often school nurses feel helpless in the fight against hunger, but there is one thing everyone can do: support school breakfast. Children who suffer from food insecurity typically qualify for free or reduced school breakfast, but don’t take advantage of the nutritious opportunity.
Let’s change that.
If we want our students to succeed in the classroom, we have to make certain they start the day with a full stomach, so they are ready to learn. A wholesome morning meal is often there for the taking, but gets passed by. Advocating that every child eat a school breakfast sets our students on a higher path of achievement and bridges the nutrient gap for many hungry students.
– Sylvia Guidry-Brown, RN
Sylvia Guidry-Brown is a dedicated school nurse with 12 years of experience. She has spent the past seven years supervising and managing the School Health Program and School Nurses in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. From 2012 -2014, Sylvia served as the president of the Louisiana School Nurse Organization. Currently, she is pursuing a Master’s degree in Clinical System Management.