Written to the song: Is This Love — Bob Marley (Montmartre Remix)
“Some people are so poor, all they have is money” — unknown.
All psychology textbooks will tell you that your personality and intelligence are dependent on both your genetic makeup and your environment. Moreover, most psychologists agree that there is an even 50% split between these two factors (both are equally as influential). Your development (physical, intellectual, even linguistic) begins in the womb. That means that your mother has an influence on your intelligence depending on the environment she resides in, her habits (ex: exercise, caffeine intake, addictions?), and especially her nutrition. As previously stated, development and intelligence is influenced by both genetic and the environmental factors. What happens to children living in poverty who can’t receive proper nutrients?
979,000 children in Canada suffer from malnutrition, as they are not eating properly and are not attaining proper nutrients needed for development (Siegler, 2006). Child growth requires energy extracted from food. When the brain and the body’s need for energy is not met, cognitive, physical, and social growth may be at risk for underdevelopment. When the need for nutrients and calories are not met, the body starts to conserve energy causing fatigue, weakness, low-immune function, and learning problems, affecting a student’s performance inside and outside the classroom. Malnourished students have difficulty paying attention in the classroom and they tend to act out, tune out and not participate, as the brain needs glucose to function. These characteristics do not make for a successful learner in the classroom. Moreover, if one cannot participate within the classroom their development as a student may be compromised. For example, if a student suffering from malnutrition is tuning out and acting out in class, the teacher may be frustrated and send the child to the principal’s office or out to the hall. This action may cause the student to be seen as an outlier in the class and they may not be learning and progressing as they are spending time in the hallway, putting them behind from their classmates.
As energy and nutrients are needed for physical development, children who are malnourished may experience delayed growth by not meeting the expected height and weight range for their age group, making them visibly smaller than healthy children in their age group. Children whose bodies are trying to conserve energy tend to not have the energy needed to participate in active play and sports. For example, if a student has not had a proper meal all day, they will probably not have the energy needed to play basketball with their classmates. Unfortunately, these students will not have the chance to develop their social and athletic skills.
Children living in poverty struggle to attain the recommended amount of nutrients, as their parents cannot always afford to feed them nutritious food. Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day, but is also the meal that is most often skipped. I was in-charge of leading the Queen’s Breakfast Club — feeding breakfast and educating the importance of nutrition to children living in lower-socioeconomic neighbourhoods in Kingston.
Many children attending this breakfast programs did not have an adequate and stable diet at home, though received nutrients from this free program offered daily at their school. As well, teachers provided snacks to students during the day which boosted the energy levels of children inside and outside the classroom. Moreover, this program allows for Queen’s students to get involved in the Kingston community (there is life outside the Queen’s bubble) and provides an opportunity for leadership and mentorship. Investing into the creation of these food programs benefits a child’s development and success within the classroom as these students are receiving nutrients they may not have attained otherwise. It may be helpful to provide pamphlets or workshops for the children to learn about healthier options and budgeting. Therefore a child can learn the importance of nutrition and can thrive in terms of physical and mental growth to actively participate in learning both inside and outside of the classroom.
Siegler, Robert S., Judy S. DeLoache, and Nancy Eisenberg. How Children Develop. New York: Worth, 2006. Print.