Needs assessment for an extension teacher professional development program on food insecurity experienced by children in their classrooms
Food insecurity is a growing problem among United States youth. Rutherford County, Tennessee has a higher than national average rate of food insecurity, which leads to one in four children suffering from hunger. The basic need for food impacts children’s learning. Teachers nationally and in Tennessee expressed that students in their classes worry about where their next meal will come from, and that this leads to an inability to focus in class. Data from a needs assessment collected through a Qualtrics survey indicates that Rutherford County teachers working in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms report ways that food insecurity affects both students and themselves as educators. Eighty percent of respondents expressed they have provided at least one or more food items for students in the past month. Seventy-eight percent of teachers “strongly agreed” with the statement that students had trouble focusing on learning due to hunger. These and other findings from the needs assessment can be used to refine curriculum for a teacher professional program related to school-based food insecurity among children. A local program would help to improve Rutherford County education by combating food insecurity during the school day by helping students to be focused and ready to learn, as well as contributing to their general well-being.