Beyond edtech: Success in the classroom of the future starts with breakfast—and lunch, and dinner
The school buses are on the move. I haven’t had a school-bus rider for some time, but I still feel a tug whenever bus D10 drives down my street. It’s an emotional time of year, and even someone watching from a distance can tell that students are excited and anxious.
What’s less visible: one in six of these student passengers doesn’t get enough to eat.
I live in New Hampshire, the state with the lowest poverty rate in the nation, yet in my small city alone, hundreds of children are food insecure, meaning they don’t always know when they will eat their next meal. The USDA reports that across the U.S. more than 41 million people, nearly 13 million of them children, live in food-insecure households.
Today in the U.S.,
41 million people, nearly
13 million of them children, don’t have enough to eat.
1 in 6 children goes hungry
at some point each year.
Sometimes the best edtech isn’t enough
At Cisco, I’m part of the Education team, which works to provide technology solutions that help schools expand their reach, foster engagement and learning, and improve student outcomes. Cisco is an education company, and many of my colleagues are former educators and school administrators with decades of experience on the front lines of education. Our work is focused on edtech and how it can help students grow, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t think about those less visible components of successful teaching and learning, the things that need to happen before a student can take full advantage of educational technology. We understand that a hungry child will struggle in school.
Fighting hunger, 68 hours at a time
The problem of food insecurity is alleviated somewhat when school is in session because students are offered breakfast and lunch each day. For the 68 hours between a hungry child’s school lunch on Friday and school breakfast on Monday, however, these children may have nothing to eat at all. While children like mine always looked forward to weekends, food-insecure children frequently face weekends with dread, afraid they’ll go hungry.
In 2011, a volunteer in my community founded an organization called End 68 Hours of Hunger. Each week during the school year, teams of volunteers pack and distribute about 200 bags of food for the Head Start program, three elementary schools, one middle school, and teen center in our city. Each bag contains about $10 worth of food: instant oatmeal packets; a jar of peanut butter; bread or crackers; two granola bars; three packages of Ramen noodles; and cans of tuna, soup, pasta, and vegetables. The exact contents of each bag varies from week to week but the goal of the selection is always the same: to provide sustenance for a hungry child who might otherwise go without.
I am fortunate in so many ways. My children will never be hungry, and I have time to volunteer for End 68 Hours of Hunger, which helps me ensure that the few children I can help aren’t hungry either. Plus, I work for Cisco, which is committed to corporate social responsibility and supports my efforts with paid time to volunteer through the Time2Give program. For me, this is one important answer to the question, Why Cisco for Education? (You can read other reasons by viewing the brochure.)
Blending the personal and professional, with one goal
Anecdotal evidence supports the power of programs like End 68 Hours of Hunger. School administrators report stronger attendance, fewer discipline problems, and increases in test scores for both reading and math. Teachers tell us that students are less anxious and more focused on schoolwork on Friday afternoons, and come to school on Monday less tired and more ready to start the week. As a Cisco employee who thinks about what we can do to improve educational outcomes for students, I can see the positive program impact through my “professional” lens.
From a personal perspective, however, my belief in the program is even more fundamental: no child should be hungry. I think about children like one third grader who told his teacher that he was excited to come to school on Friday because he got food to bring home to “help is family.” Eight-year-olds should be thinking about reading or multiplication or what game to play at recess and not worrying about what their family will eat on Saturday. (In an interesting aside, we know that a poor student who can’t read at grade level by third grade is 13 times less likely to graduate than a proficient, wealthier peer.)
Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins has said that we’re at our best when we combine our business strength with our desire to do good in the world. Why Cisco? Cisco is empowering me to make a difference. Learn more about Cisco’s corporate social responsibility programs and about Why Cisco for Education.