Average teacher spends $37 to feed hungry kids

The sad truth: Despite the school lunch program, food stamps, and other programs, millions of schoolkids go hungry. This effects their performance and behavior along with their well-being. Teachers try to help.  A recent survey shows that teachers spend an average of $37 a month out of their own pockets to help make up for the hunger gap.
NEA Today reports:

According to the 2013 Hunger in our Schools survey by Share Our Strength, seventy-three percent of educators teach students who regularly come to school hungry due to lack of food at home. Half say hunger in the classroom is a serious issue. Not surprisingly, educators and principals often spend their own cash to try to alleviate this problem. On average, teachers spend $37 a month and principals spend $59 a month for food for their students. Share Our Strength surveyed 1,000 public school teachers and principals.

On the other hand, there’s this Dickensian (in so many ways) story about the New Jersey school district that has adopted a policy of “No food for you!” when kids have no money.

When I saw the article in NEA TODAY, I immediately thought of Avon Little from Chain Gang Elementary.

Here’s the relevant passage from the novel:

Mrs. Little popped open the trunk, which was packed with grocery boxes and several dozen ten-packs of fruit juice. The back seat was filled, too, all the way to the roof. There had to be a ton of food in the car. Its suspension sagged under the weight.

“Did you hijack a grocery truck?” Richard asked.

She scowled, but her eyes twinkled. “Smart aleck. I bet you got in trouble all the time at school when you was a boy. Reason I do this is because they don’t give free breakfasts here, so I fill the gap.”

“Is this for the whole year?”

“Heavens, no! This may not last to September. I feed thirty kids each mornin’ before school, all grades. Be more this year. I got ten Chantilly kids, at least. I see kids aren’t getting fed at home, so I make sure they doan start the day empty. I give ’em something to take home, too.”

Richard did the math. Ten apartment kids in one class meant nearly two hundred in all. Guilt overcame him. Why didn’t I fight the redistricting? “How many students from the apartment complex in all?”

“Mrs. Baines says there’s fifty-six. I got all of ’em in third grade. Every blessed one. Any more come, I get them, too, I reckon. How’s that for coincidence?”

“It’s very strange,” he said, grabbing four packs of boxed orange juice, fighting back his growing anger. Taking the weakest students and dumping them in her class—ghettoizing, that’s what it was! An outrage!

Mrs. Little pulled a plastic sack from the trunk. “My husband died in Vietnam a long time ago, back when I was a young thing. I got no children of my own.” She looked off toward the pine trees along the school’s fence. “So I see them all as partly mine.”

“Do you pay for this yourself? I mean, I’m wondering why I haven’t heard about this. Seems like the PTO could help.”

After he followed the teacher inside, she gestured for him to put the drinks in the closet. “Miz R doesn’t officially admit I do this.” She put a finger to her lips. “She doesn’t wanna know. Have to admit we need a breakfast program or shut me down or somethin’. For me, it’s Christian duty. Can’t say that, though. Some folks think God wants nuthin’ to do with public schools, but they His children, too.”

Violent femme: Mom assaults teacher because … believe the children!

Today’s lesson: DO NOT automatically take your child’s word when they accuse others of wrongdoing.

UFCThis example of fresh, hot idiocy comes from my home state of Missouri. Here’s the allegation: Simone A. Baker, upon hearing from her six-year-old son, who had been scratched, that he had received corporal punishment from his kindergarten teacher, rushed up to the school and promptly administered a beating to said teacher.

According to reports, there was no discussion, no complaint, just a thrashing after screaming, “You better not touch my child again!”  She allegedly struck the 49-year-old teacher four or five times and banged her head against a filing cabinet.  She fled the scene as the principal and faculty members arrived at the classroom.

Police have cited Ms. Baker for assault.

Meanwhile, according to a news account, “The boy was brought to school by his dad the day after the incident. The child has reportedly retracted his original accusation now stating, that his teacher did not scratch or strike him in any way.”


Chain Gang Elementary tackles tough issues with “acerbic wit”


News from Thornbriar Press

Download release as a pdf

Book Tackles Difficult Issues of Education, Parenting, and Bake Sale Embezzlement

Jonathan Grant’s timely, poignant tale of war between a PTA president and a grade school principal has struck a chord with both parents and educators as well as critics. In addition to receiving praise from reviewers, Chain Gang Elementary is “Required Reading” in PTO Today.

“It’s funny. It’s not so funny,” says Grant. “I tell people it’s my revenge for being forced to read Lord of the Flies in high school.”

Setting PTA embezzlement and testing scandals against a backdrop of “diversity fails” and bitter culture wars, the novel’s plot may seem like it’s been lifted from recent news headlines. But there’s more to the book than that.

Winner of non-Pulitzer Prize

“When I was an elementary school PTA president, I wanted to write a non-fiction book—a how-to guide for parent leaders,” Grant explains. “Then I saw Murder at the PTA Luncheon. Actually, I came across this phrase: ‘Every good school is fundamentally the same, but every bad school is unique.’ This got me thinking, and being a novelist, I decided instead to tackle the subject as a cautionary tale, a ‘how-not-to’ guide for parent-educator relationships.”

To get an idea of the novel’s bite, check out this excerpt on The Standard Hightower Intellachievement Test.

Here’s just some of the praise being given to Chain Gang Elementary:

  • “This book is the show ‘Desperate Housewives’ wishes it could be.” – Indie Books List (“Book of the Month” award)
  • “Grant provides trenchant criticisms of educational policy … (with) acerbic wit.” – Publishers Weekly
  • “Exceptionally well-written.” – John Pearson, teacher and author of Learn Me Good
  • “Those who have written education columns for newspapers, survivors of parent/teacher organizations as well as many others will find that Grant has done an exceptional job of weaving educational fact and enticing fiction together. For that, he deserves an ‘A.’”—Jack Kennedy, former president, Education Writers Association
  • “Truth or fiction: Chain Gang Elementary cuts too close to reality. A novel that reads like daily news.” – Diane Ravitch

Grant also publishes the Chain Gang Blog (www.chaingangelementary.com), his Darwin Award-ish take on crime, education, public policy, and whatever else he finds weirdly fascinating. A representative headline: “Contrary to popular opinion, duct tape does not fix children.”

Book Description: After a murder at Bonaire Elementary, Richard and Anna Lee Gray seek a good school for their son Nick in a safe neighborhood. Their search leads them to Malliford, a “school of excellence.” When redistricting sends scores of minority students to Malliford, iron-willed Principal Estelle Rutherford declares war on kids to raise test scores and save her reputation. Dissident parents revolt, electing Richard to head the Parent-Teacher Organization, and tensions explode. Welcome to Chain Gang Elementary, home to vast right-wing conspiracies, third-grade gangsters, and bake sale embezzlers–where toxic childhood secrets boil over, reformers go stark raving mad, and culture wars escalate into armed conflict.

Chain Gang Elementary

A Novel by Jonathan Grant
Thornbriar Press
ISBN 978-0-9834921-0-8
eBook ISBN: 978-0-9834921-1-5
Contemporary Fiction
Available wherever books are sold