Study: Food insecurity affects kids' grades as early as kinderga - KCTV5

Study: Food insecurity affects kids' grades as early as kindergarten

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A staggering number of children in the metro and across Kansas and Missouri do not know where or when they'll eat their next meal. (AP) A staggering number of children in the metro and across Kansas and Missouri do not know where or when they'll eat their next meal. (AP)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

A staggering number of children in the metro and across Kansas and Missouri do not know where or when they'll eat their next meal.

Health experts call it "food insecurity." Now, a new study shows how food insecurity directly affects children's grades as early as kindergarten.

This new study is not a surprise to people who work tirelessly at Harvesters Community Food Network. The agency says one out of every five children across the 26 counties it serves is hungry and food insecure.

Every week, Harvesters volunteers work like a well-oiled machine, packing bags of food to be distributed to 19,000 kids across the region. Without these weekly packages, these kids would be hungry.

"We know having access to fresh and healthy meals is going to help kids do better in schools," said Jessica Kejr, Harvesters director of program services.

The Department of Agriculture estimates more than 13 million children across the United States live in homes without enough to eat.

The new study says early food insecurity is directly linked to poor performance in school and poor development socially and emotionally. But Harvesters says their BackSnack program is helping. 

"Fewer visits to the nurse's office or better attendance at school or things like grades or behavior levels," Kejr said.

Kejr says they make sure each bag includes easy to eat meals and snacks that are nutritious, but that children also like, and they try to also include fresh produce on a regular basis.

"It's also packaged in a way that kids can access right away," Kejr said.

Since the BackSnack program began in 2004, Harvesters says the kids who get the bags have had 9-percent fewer instances of being late to school, 8-percent fewer visits to the nurse, 12-percent fewer discipline issues, and grades have gone up in math, science, social studies and English. 

Whether it's donating food, money or your time volunteering, Harvesters always needs more help. Click here for more information.

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