Food insecurity. In the simplest of terms, you are hungry. Hunger is a thief. It takes your reasoning ability, your motivation, your clarity of thought, your moral codes. All that matters is survival.

I had a principal tell me this story: A student had an incident on the bus. The bus driver was adamant that the child be kicked off the bus for a week. After a discussion, the principal said, “If the child is not on the bus for a week, the child does not eat for a week.” The driver remained adamant: No child on the bus for the week—food or no food.

The principal then said she needed to go to the child’s home to get some papers signed and asked if the bus driver would go with her. The bus driver did. When the bus driver went inside the home and saw the child’s situation, the bus driver was appalled. On the way back to school, she told the principal that the boy could be on the bus. In fact, the bus driver went back to the bus barn and explained what she had seen to the other bus drivers. They all pitched in some money, and she went to the grocery store and took the groceries to the boy’s home.

COVID-19 and the spread of the coronavirus are exacerbating food insecurity, and as schools are closing to prevent the spread of the virus, they are scrambling to make sure that students in need get food. The problem is more acute in rural areas than urban areas. In 2016, 11.8% were food-insecure in urban areas, while the rate was 15% in rural areas. Transportation is also a huge issue in rural areas. I read yesterday that rural schools are thinking about running the bus route every day and delivering food to each house. In 2017, 40 million Americans, including 12 million children, were food insecure.

What can you do when your school closes temporarily and you know that students will be hungry? Hopefully your school system will have a plan to continue to provide food. Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Identify the students you know are most vulnerable and who probably will go hungry. Make sure that the food bank (or whoever does your weekend backpack program) has their names.
  2. Give students a list of resources with phone numbers (not websites—30% of households in poverty do not have Internet access) in your community where food can be obtained.
  3. If you are able, give to the local food bank or whomever does the backpack program.