Four-year-old Brian’s teacher, Miss LaToya, wasn’t surprised when she saw the contents of his lunch bag; a small snack baggie of white rice and half of a hot dog.
“Brian would be at school from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the contents of his small lunch bag were to cover breakfast, morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack.” She said. “I knew I would need to get him something extra because his little body would be hungry, but that was pretty typical. For our students, it isn’t unusual for us to supplement their meals from classroom snack supplies or go to the gas station next door to buy a Lunchable with our own money. Hungry students can’t learn, and every minute of learning is imperative to our students.”
The Melinda Webb School at The Center for Hearing and Speech has 44 deaf preschool students aged 18 months to 6-years-old enrolled in their early intervention program and is the only full-service resource in Houston to teach deal children to listen and speak without the use of sign language. Through their programs, deaf children gain listening, speaking and literacy skills—essential tools they need to improve their quality of life. The school works to help each student demonstrate mastery over essential skills so they are prepared for a traditional classroom environment. Students wear cochlear implants which cost tens-of-thousands of dollars in surgery, equipment and therapy. Many of our student’s families face financial challenges due to the substantial medical costs associated with treatment and therapies.
Miss SarahBeth, another teacher, experienced similar issues in her classroom of preschoolers, “We have single parent families, as well as several who spend their money on gas driving a significant distance every day to access our school for their deaf children. It is common for students to arrive with very little food, or unhealthy items off of the dollar menu from fast food restaurants because of affordability. One of my 2-year-old students would have one slice of bologna and a handful of Cheerios in his lunch bag because that was all his family could afford that day. Junk food is often just much cheaper.”
About 50% of students receive Kids’ Meals lunches.
“Kids’ Meals has made an incredible difference in the effectiveness of our classrooms,” Miss SarahBeth said. “The children are more receptive students who learn, play and sleep better because of the regular healthy meals. Their behavior and ability to focus was markedly different. Before Kids’ Meals, my students wouldn’t make healthy food choices and several had no drinks. Now they are proud to eat healthy items and drink all of their milk.”
Lindy Douglas, the school’s Director of Education is thrilled with the results. “The preschool years are irreplaceable from a learning standpoint, and even more essential for preparing deaf students to participate successfully in classrooms with hearing peers. Having our students well-fed and able to focus is critical to their health and classroom success. We love Kids’ Meals and have seen an incredible impact in classroom performance.”