November 11-17 is American Education Week (AEW) – a yearly event that celebrates public education and honors individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. The weeklong celebration features a special observance each day, a call to action to teachers and administrators to invite aspiring educators, community leaders, parents and friends into their classrooms, as well as an opportunity to win $5,000 in grant awards.
AEW was established in 1919 by the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Legion during a time when over 25% of the population was illiterate and 9% were physically unfit. Although AEW was originally created as a way to generate public support for education after World War I, it is still relevant today as a way to connect education and health and show how schools can play an important role in tackling health issues affecting young people.
At the National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN) our mission is to improve the health and safety of the school community. We empower NEA members to confront the biggest challenges facing students today; including childhood hunger. In 2010, USDA released a report stating that 1 out of every 5 children in the United States—16.2 million children—lived in a household that struggled to afford enough food for all members of the family. For many of these children, the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program supply much of the food they eat during the week. However, due to often unrecognized barriers, less than half of low-income children who are eligible for free or reduced priced school breakfast are participating in the program. We know from NEA members that millions of children are missing out on breakfast and that missing breakfast has negative consequences on their health and academic performance.
Share Our Strength has been a valued partner in NEA HIN’s efforts to eliminate childhood hunger. In 2010 our organizations developed the Start School With Breakfast Guide to help educators and community members increase student participation in the School Breakfast Program. The guide is available to order or download.
Share Our Strength has also been a resource to many of NEA’s local associations as they work collaboratively with their school districts to address the issue of childhood hunger. This year, Share Our Strength announced that they will be expanding their No Kid Hungry Allies program and are looking for additional organizations to join the fight to end childhood hunger. Being a No Kid Hungry Ally holds several benefits including access to financial resources, capacity building, and connecting to a network of peers to share best practices. For more information, go to http://nokidhungry.org/allies.
At NEA HIN, we hope that you take time this week to celebrate public education and educators and think about the role schools can play in tackling the many health problems – including hunger– facing American children and communities. Hunger is a solvable problem and together we can ALL make a difference. Let us know how you plan on celebrating AEW by commenting on our Facebook and Twitter page. We would love to hear from you!