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82 percent of Arizona educators have hungry students, survey finds

(Flickr/U.S. Department of Agriculture)
LISTEN: Survey: Majority of Arizona educators are seeing students facing hunger

PHOENIX — A majority of teachers and principals in Arizona said their students are facing multiple barriers to learning, including coming to school hungry and dealing with a personal or family crisis.

According to a recent survey from Scholastic, a national literacy organization, 93 percent of teachers and principals in the state said they have students who are experiencing a personal or family crisis.

In addition, 84 percent said they have students who are living in poverty, 83 percent have students in need of mental health services, 82 percent have students who come to school hungry and 68 percent have students who are homeless or living in temporary housing.

Rhonda Neal Waltman, a spokeswoman with Scholastic, said this time of year is when the issue of students’ hunger is typically raised due to holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

She said some students only get hot meals when they are at school, which often effects their ability to learn.

“Teachers have students who come to school hungry every day,” Waltman said. “This is an issue that as a community we face, but in particular for Arizona, it was relatively high.”

“A child that is hungry simply cannot learn,” she added.

Waltman said community members should use this number as a “call to action” to work closely with schools and combat the issue.

Some schools in other states participate in a backpack program, which involves volunteers filling backpacks with food so students in need can take them home over the weekend. Arizona residents can get involved by starting or volunteering in these types of programs, Waltman said.

“This is a community problem, not just a school problem,” she said. “Arizona teachers are dedicated, they want the best for their students, but we shouldn’t ask them to do it alone.”

“We hope decision makers at every level – federal, state and local – consider these findings as they develop their policies and as funds are allocated,” she added.

KTAR News’ Griselda Zetino contributed to this report. 

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