As a teacher, Katherine Howton sees her kids on their best days and on their worst days. But as an experienced educator, she's learned to recognize that sometimes changes in behavior come from hunger, and that for some of her kids, their next meal isn't a guarantee.
In order to bring awareness to the over 13 million children who live in households with inconsistent amounts of food, Katherine shared what she and fellow teachers are doing to protect their own students. These incredible teachers have food cabinets in their classrooms so that they are prepared if a child in need ever walks through their door. "We are your children's teachers. We know that we may have more time with your child than you do," she wrote. "We don't want them to be hungry, and not just because a hungry child can't learn but because we care about them. Hungry feels scary."
According to Katherine, who teaches at a high school school in Oregon, almost every teacher that she knows has a cabinet in their classroom with emergency food for hungry kids. "Children come into our classroom everyday telling us they are hungry. Many more never say a word because they are embarrassed and it is up to us to notice that they are distracted, tired, grumpy," she wrote. "Skilled and compassionate teachers learn to ask if there is food in the house and when was the last time you ate? And the really skilled teachers just know when to make an extra sandwich, grab an orange, make a bag of popcorn or bowl of oatmeal, and set it in front of a student and tell them to eat."
Katherine told Scary Mommy that at least 20 percent of her students have housing insecurity and she quickly realized not only how many of her kids go without food toward the end of the month, but also that she is far from the only staff member doing this. "I asked my colleagues, 'Do you find it weird that we've never talked about it?' If we as educators aren't talking about it, how could parents possibly know?" she said.
Katherine also knows that with the current political climate and the government possibly cutting school programs that offer free food, her cabinet is going to be even more important. "They're cutting the federal safety net, and we're providing this invisible safety net that no one even knows about," she said.