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The Impact of School Meals on Children’s Education and Health


The poverty and hunger suffered by the famous American country and western singer, Dolly Parton, during her childhood have powered her drive to want to help feed the children who are going through similar experiences.

“I went to bed hungry many nights as a child. It was a Dream that dressed me up when I was ragged, and it was a Dream that filled me up when I was hungry. Now it’s my dream to see that no child in this world ever goes hungry.”

Cost of School Meals

Hungry children cannot learn as effectively as those who have a full belly. It’s as simple as that. Anxiety plays a large part – not knowing where your next meal is coming from affects concentration levels in the classroom and, in many communities, will force them out of the classroom and into the world of work far too young.

The inability of schools and local communities to pay for school meals means that local economies miss out on the education and advancement of thousands of potentially great young minds. For every generation of school children that receive a substandard education due to hunger and poverty, that cycle of hunger and poverty continues into the next generation.

This lack of concentration is not just the distraction caused by a grumbling stomach. When you consider that a healthy brain uses about 20 per cent of your body’s energy - and in younger, developing children, that percentage is often greater – cognitive functioning suffers. Add to this an overall feeling of lethargy, anxiety, and depression; it is no wonder that families caught up in poverty find it harder to escape the vicious cycle.

From Hunger to Hope

The classroom should be the place where fates can change. Where a ‘Dream’ starts to fruition into reality. Hunger kills that dream.

It is not just the lack of food that affects cognition, but the lack of effective nutrients, which is why the supply of nutritious meals for children is so crucial in the fight to stop hunger now. In a healthy, well-fed child, the brain is fed with everything it needs to keep growing and developing properly. When these nutrients are lacking, this can lead to long-term learning problems. A brain that doesn’t develop properly as a child becomes a brain that doesn’t function properly as an adult.

And it is not simply cognition that is affected.

As a child grows, it requires certain nutrients to develop a healthy immune system to protect it against future illnesses. In short, starving children get sick quicker and take longer to recover. Additionally, when they are sick, they are usually absent from school. The more they are absent, the further behind their contemporaries they fall.

How a School Meals Charity Can Save Children’s Lives

We’ve seen how hunger can impact the cognitive development of a child, but the damage also extends to other ears of that child’s physical well-being.

When a heart is malnourished, it literally has to work so much harder to pump blood around the body. Add to this the fact that hunger reduces the production of healthy blood cells; the entire circulatory system slows right down.

The weakened immune system means that the liver and kidneys are unable to filter out toxins and waste. Instead, those toxins start to build up and eat away at any immune system that might be remaining, making it vulnerable to infections and disease.

Bones lack the calcium to grow properly. Consequently, growth is stunted, and bone health is compromised.

Skin becomes thin and brittle. While healthy skin is an effective barrier against infection, malnourished skin cracks easily, leaving the body open and vulnerable to infection and disease.

Fast, effective intervention through the implementation of a programme from a free school meal charity such as Charity Meals will ensure that generation after generation of children can guarantee at least one substantial, nutritious meal a day.

If you pay for school meals through our dedicated school meals charity appeal, you are giving a child the opportunity to stave off hunger and grow and develop into a healthy, active adult. You are giving a child the opportunity to reignite their thinking and participate more fully in school. You are giving a child the opportunity to contribute proactively to the growth of the local economy, bringing new and fresh ideas to help communities pull themselves out of poverty.

You are protecting that child, and consequently that child’s extended family, from falling further into the poverty trap. You are empowering that child to take control of their own future.

Charity Meals is dedicated to helping every single child throughout both developing countries and here in the UK. Hunger knows no borders when you are living in poverty.