In my work with TwinStar, I spend a lot of time in classrooms teaching students about finances. One day, I noticed a teacher who had provided store-bought pastries for her class and we got into an interesting discussion regarding students and hunger. She surprised me by telling me that on any given day, 30-40% of her students may be dealing with food insecurity.
According to FeedingAmerica.org, 43.1 million people in 2015 were living below the poverty line ($24,250 for a family of four). Households with children had higher rates of food insecurity (17%), especially households with children headed by single women (30%) or single men (22%). (source: www.feedingamerica.org)
If a child’s basic needs such as hunger are not being met, chances of them succeeding in the classroom can be diminished.
A Pierce County teacher once told me about a middle school student who was constantly in trouble for being late to class. Without further information, it might be easy to think that this student doesn’t care and perhaps deserves the punishment they receive. It turns out that this student was late because he was doing his best to get his little sister to elementary school, where they provided her breakfast. He wanted to make sure his sister had something to eat, and this often meant he was late to class and missed breakfast himself. To his baby sister he was not lazy, he was heroic!
Many times, we don’t know the struggles a family faces just to perform basic life functions. I participated in a “Life Simulation” at a conference in 2016 that gave me the experience of living below the poverty line. Although it was only a three-hour simulation, it was very eye opening. Something I take for granted - like transportation - can be a real hardship for someone else, and can affect multiple aspects of their life. After learning so much, I wanted to share this experience with others.
TwinStar Credit Union is excited to be partnering with South Puget Sound Community College to bring the Life Simulation to their sociology students in February 2017. The Life Simulation will involve several TwinStar employee volunteers that will help show the harsh realities of living below the poverty line. Together we can start a movement of love, patience, and empathy in our communities!
Article by Amanda Stevens, TwinStar Credit Union Community Development Manager.