School cancellations impact hungry students

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Life-threatening cold forced schools to close in Kansas City and across the nation this week. District leaders said the decision isn't easy because of its widespread impact. One educator in the Midwest posted a poignant reality check that has gotten more than 700 shares on Facebook.

As temperatures plummeted below zeros across the nation, residents in Des Moines, Iowa begged district leaders to cancel school. As the emails poured in, Cindy Elsbernd, a top administrator with the local district, decided to respond to a letter she received from a local pastor.

"I think it becomes easy for all of us to get caught up in our own world," she said.

In her post, she wrote, "Students face a constant reality that is far more cold and bitter than whatever it is Mother Nature has in store."

Elsbernd was referring to the hundreds of students who come from homes where families can't always afford to provide three meals a day.

"There are homes that don't have food, that maybe don't have heat. Some of them [students] that are maybe homeless all together," she said.

Locally, area officials face the same challenge. Cindy Cop, a principal a T.A. Edison Elementary in Kansas City, Kan., said nearly 90 percent of the students in the district qualify for free and reduced lunch. She even keeps a box of granola bars in her office for kids who get hungry.

"We have kids that come in hungry. They are first in line for breakfast and will take their time eating breakfast and see what leftovers they can find after," she said.

Cop said food insecurity for local children makes the decision to close school difficult.

"Especially after a long break that we've had, I think it would be a difficult decision to not have school because kids have been home for 10 extra days during the month and parents have to find the means to provide extra meals for their kids that they don't typically have to during the week," she said.

Local organizations such as Harvesters work with area schools to address food insecurity.

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