New Haven schools helping their students with the fight against hunger

Hunger Action Month

FILE – In this Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, file photo, kids eat lunch at an elementary school in Paducah, Ky. The Biden administration is expanding a program to feed as many as 34 million school children during the summer months. They’re using funds from the coronavirus relief package approved in March 2021. (Ellen O’Nan/The Paducah Sun via AP, File)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Food insecurity is a problem across America, affecting children’s ability to learn, but the New Haven school district has found a way to fill that void by giving students a fighting chance in the classroom.

Students face another day of learning and it shouldn’t be a problem unless they’re dealing with food insecurity.

“If a child is hungry, I strongly believe that they have difficulty learning, absolutely,” said Elizabeth Finn, Ross Woodward teacher.

Elizabeth Finn is a sixth-grade teacher at Ross Woodward School in New Haven. She’s learned to spot the signs of a child who hasn’t been properly fed. It often results in fatigue.

“Laying on their desk, that’s something we notice a lot, even exhaustion. They can be sleepy, and sometimes we notice simple things, tummy aches, and headaches,” Finn said.

In Connecticut, 490,000 people struggle with hunger with 131,000 of them being children, according to Feeding America.

Kim Hart understands what it’s like not knowing where her son’s next meal is coming from. Fifteen years ago, there were days when she sent her son to school even when he was under the weather.

“Just in order to eat because I knew my cupboards were bare,” Hart said.

Now, she’s a volunteer with Witness to Hunger, a non-profit organization helping to deliver meals to the New Haven School District.

Hunger is an issue the school district addresses each day first thing in the morning.

“All our children are able to eat a free meal in New Haven, both breakfast and lunch, and when we offer suppers and after-school snacks, it’s all free,” said Gail Sharry, Food Service Director at New Haven Public Schools.

On any given day, 8,000 to 10,000 meals are prepared at the Central Kitchen and once the workers are finished, the food is then shipped out to 30 schools within the New Haven School District.

“So, this is a salad plate that we are sending out to the schools. It has lettuce underneath, and on top we have our protein item. They just have to add their salad dressing,” Sharry said.

That’s just one of the many meals that make a difference in the lives of New Haven children, giving them the fuel needed to move forward in the classroom.

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