Feeding the Food Insecure

Growing up as a child and teenager, my family would have been classified as economically disadvantaged because we qualified for free lunch. Shopping as a family in thrifts stores and having clothes donated to us was viewed as normal. Receiving the government monthly checks, along with the blocks of cheese, bread, etc., fed our family of nine. Whenever there was a shortage, other family and friends always helped us out, so we were never hungry, in need of clothing or lacked adequate shelter. So we were always able to come to school with enough sleep and nutrition to learn without challenge. Have you ever gone to bed hungry, because there was no food in your house? As parents, leaders, and educators, it is one of our greatest fears to see our children hungry. However, some children do unfortunately suffer from food insecurity.  

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash 

Food insecurity is, “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to gain acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” Unfortunately, many children who face food insecurity are often physically, emotionally, and cognitively behind their food-secure peers. Food insecurity can severely affect children’s health and brain development long before they enter a classroom. That is why leaders and educators need to ensure all of their pupils are food-secure. Addressing food insecurity in your institution will help foster equity in your community. When all children are food-secure, they all have a better chance at success.  

Food insecurity has a direct impact on the health of your pupils. The most affordable food is often the unhealthiest, especially in food deserts, where finding healthy food at an affordable price can be difficult. Because of this, food-insecure households are much more likely than food-secure households to report eating unhealthy foods. It also affects a child’s education. Food-insecure children often show smaller gains in reading and math comprehension than their food-secure classmates. Food-insecure children and teenagers have been shown to miss school more frequently, and are more likely to repeat a grade than food-secure children. Any disadvantages in which food insecurity puts some children also points to inequity in your organization. 

Photo by RODNAE Productions  

So, how can we eliminate food insecurity in our educational institutions? School breakfast programs are a great option. Programs like this help decrease the time between meals for children with limited access to food outside of your institution. School breakfast programs have shown to increase attendance, decrease tardiness, and provide quality nutrition to students who might not always have access to a healthy breakfast. The same goes for lunch and after-school meal programs. Lunch programs are pillars to ensuring the food needs of your students are met. After-school programs help ensure children get in one more meal before returning home, where they might not have sufficient food to eat for dinner. We can often reimburse many of these programs, and they are an equitable investment to make in your educational institution to ensure your community is food-secure. 

Leaders, food insecurity doesn’t stop with the students. It can also affect your educators. Food insecurity affects the health of your educators, as well as workplace productivity. Employees that are food-insecure are more likely to miss and be distracted at work. Time lost when employees are absent or not fully productive comes at a cost, not only to your educational institution but also to the students and their learning experiences. In order to foster a healthy, productive work environment, access to safe, nutritious food is essential.  

Photo by RODNAE Productions 

Combating food insecurity in your educational community is a keyway to help foster equity among your students, as well as your educators. Providing meal programs to your community is just one great way you can ensure everyone stays alert and productive while teaching and learning. Have you identified food insecurity as an issue in your educational institution? GOMO Educational Services can help you do that, and more. We perform equity audits on educational institutions and organizations, and then we use the information we gather to help you change your community so that everyone benefits from the resources they need and are better poised for success. Don’t know where to start? Contact us today for guidance! 

I will not Correctly Pronounce Your Name 

Have you ever had someone struggle to pronounce your name, so they decided to call you something that’s easier for them to say? I have. With the name Josue, there are different language variations. Being Haitian, the correct pronunciation of my first name is Zhǝ-zu-way. Then, there’s my last name, Falaise. The correct pronunciation is Fa-Lez. However, for most of my life people had called me, Joshua Full Ace because of their discomfort with pronouncing my first and last name. In fact, I continue to hear people ask me “Is there an easier version, abbreviation or American version to your name?” I’ll be honest: it doesn’t feel great. It seems small, but when you think about it, it’s not. Pronouncing someone’s name correctly is one of the simplest ways to show value for their name, culture and heritage. No name is too hard to say – you just have to learn how to say it. Refusing to do so is not only devalues their name, culture and heritage, but is also considered a microaggression.  

What are microaggressions? Microaggressions are casual verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights or cues, regardless of intention, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. Some examples of microaggressions are using sexist, racist, ableist, homophobic, or otherwise discriminatory language, assuming someone’s gender, refusing to pronounce someone’s name correctly, or singling someone out based on their background. Microaggressions are casual, so their delivery might not be outwardly aggressive, but their impact on the recipient is just as significant as if they were.  

In many cases, microaggressions exist on a subconscious level. Concepts like imitating someone’s accent or using inappropriate humor that degrades those belonging to certain groups occur more commonly than blatant discrimination all fall under the umbrella of microaggressions. These ideas, along with many others, are commonly practiced by many without the realization that they are microaggressions. As educational leaders, one of our greatest responsibilities is to foster a community that is safe for everyone. Eliminating microaggressions in our classrooms is one of the most effective ways to do that. 

So, how do we deal with microaggressions? There are key actions we can take before and when microaggressions occur, as well as preventative steps we can take to avoid them in the future. First, we should reflect on and acknowledge our own interactions and behaviors we may exhibit. What triggers us? Why? How do others react to certain remarks we make? Do those remarks target individuals in our communities? How can we work through discomfort? Encourage your educators to reflect on their own interactions and behaviors as well. They will be the driving force that encourages safety in their classrooms.  

Remember, eliminating microaggressions has nothing to do with whether or not you’re a good person, or a good leader. However, it has everything to do with ensuring that your community is safe for everyone. Good intentions can have a harmful impact. That is why reflection and acknowledgement are essential when considering microaggressions and their place in your community.  

Image by John Hain from Pixabay 

Now that we know some measures to take to prevent microaggressions, what can we do when we witness them in action? First things first: Pause and breathe. Understand that emotions can elevate quickly if someone is upset. Review your community guidelines so that everyone in the situation remembers what type of behavior is expected of them in your organization. Ask for clarification and take time to explain the harmful impact of microaggressions. Take care to validate and extend support to those who have been targeted and be sure to follow up with them after the issue has been resolved. Are they satisfied with the outcome? Has the behavior of the aggressor changed? Consider all of this in your work to eliminate microaggressions in your organization. If someone still feels unsafe, there is more immediate work to do.  

The work that must be done to overcome microaggressions is not easy by any means, but it is necessary to foster a safe, inclusive, and equitable institution. If you’re not sure where to start, GOMO Education Services can help you. Our equity audits will help you to understand which areas of your organization need improvement, and our equity training will help you foster safety and inclusivity in your community. Leaders, take matters into your own hands and pledge to improve the equity of your educational institution. Contact us today to get started.