Recently, thanks to the U.S Department of Agriculture, every student in Knox County became eligible to receive free breakfast and lunch beginning Tuesday, September 8th. Though the grant may be temporary, it has already improved the mental and physical well being of many students. For students who bring their own lunch to school, and those who easily afford the standard $2.75 lunch cost, the grant has little effect, the majority benefits being apparent for low income students. For those that cannot afford the cost of lunch there are two options: go into debt with the school, or simply do not eat.
According to Campbellsville University, a lack of nutrition for students creates poor academic performance and makes it difficult for students to ¨maintain psychosocial well-being.¨ The statements of KHS students support this claim. When asked if going without breakfast or lunch affected them, the answer is a resounding yes.
However; the students interviewed react differently to the negative effects of hunger. For some, the distraction of hunger is easy to dismiss. A KHS sophomore states as such. When asked if going without food affected him this was his response, ¨ I mean yeah, but I just put it behind me so I can do what I need to do.¨ For him, pushing through the effects is the obvious response. Unfortunately, not every student is capable of this and finds themselves struggling when faced with midday hunger pangs. ¨I feel like if I don’t eat lunch I at least eat something during the day or I’m gonna be super tired. For the rest of the day [without eating] I don’t feel like I could actually learn anything.¨ According to a junior here, in the preceding quote, he finds himself incapable of learning or focusing on new material. This issue could potentially cause students to fall behind in class and for students with other commitments, a lack of nutrition is even more detrimental to their focus. A senior who works 30 hours a week at the local Sonic, states that in general eating lunch ¨really helps me stay awake longer and actually pay attention in class.¨ When asked about how her job affected her ability to go without food she said ¨Oh absolutely [She needs lunch more], I am more tired. I need more… sustenance,¨ she says with a laugh.
In the modern climate of academic competition, a lack of available nutrition makes the task of keeping up with difficult courses nearly impossible for some students. As a school, and as humans, it’s important to provide equal opportunities to all students. The ability to eat should be one of those opportunities, without consequence. While the grant has covered any lunch expenses from this 2020-2021 school year, there are students who still find themselves indebted to the school for lunches sometimes eaten years ago. This causes many students to find themselves in a place of stress when walking to lunch. While fellow classmates chatter around them, indebted students may find themselves dreading having to choose between eating or going hungry.
Ultimately, the grant has had a positive impact on the KHS student body as a whole. While the grant has not individually affected each student of KHS, overall a great opportunity has been presented and more students than ever sit at lunch tables with food in front of them.