SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — It’s a staggering statistic. Nearly 20% of all households in Springfield aren’t making enough to buy enough food to feed their families. It’s known as food hardship.
Many of those families struggling with food hardship are getting help from their schools.
In Chicopee schools, nearly two thirds of the students qualify for the meal assistance program. That program provides meals at either a reduced price or for free depending on where the students family falls in USDA guidelines. And it’s a program Joanne Lennon, Director of Food Services for Chicopee believes in.
“We encourage the students that do qualify for this meal to eat it because lots of times I know there is some hardships at home and you don’t have enough money for groceries so if they do they can eat their breakfast and a very nutritious lunch, so they can get two thirds of what they need daily just at school,” said Lennon.
And beyond making sure that children have enough to eat, food hardships can also impact a students performance. A new study released by “Share Our Strengths: No Kid Hungry” shows that on average students who ate school breakfast scored 17.5% higher on standardized math tests and attended 1.5 more days of school.
Nearly 90% of students in Springfield Public Schools qualify for reduced price or free lunches and every student can receive free breakfast. And they are seeing the benefits of those breakfasts in more than just academics.
Azell Cavaan, Chief Communications Officer for Springfield’s schools said, “Eating breakfast has created better relationships with the students, it’s really positively impacted behavior and their concentration seems to be a lot more focused after having breakfast.”
Springfield’s food hardship rates were the highest in the state compared to Worcester at close to 17% and Boston at nearly 13%.