Cheese sandwich
Cheese sandwich iStock

Ahead of School Safety Awareness Week, marked May 22-27, an Israeli NGO has released findings showing a direct correlation between school-based under-nutrition and violent incidences on school grounds.

According to NEVET, based in Raanana, Israel, their involvement with providing nutritional meals to impoverished children within the school setting has directly and positively impacted on children with a record of violent behavior and led to an overall reduction in violence in educational settings.

NEVET distributes over 11,000 sandwiches daily in schools all around the country to children who are unable to bring their own, either from poverty or other challenging home-life circumstances. The healthy nutritionist-recommended meals are prepared fresh daily by volunteers in the schools and are delivered anonymously so the children have no stigma for being in need of external support.

“We were repeatedly dealing with kids who come to school hungry which has been proven to lead to irritability, violent behavior, and overall delinquency,” says Rotem Yosef Giladi, CEO of NEVET. “Ninety-six percent of schools assisted by NEVET’s program have reported a sustained change in the overall behavior climate in our school and reduction in the number of violent incidences on school grounds.”

According to information from Israel’s Ministry of Health trauma registry, released on the occasion of School Safety Awareness Week, every year more than 15,000 students are injured during school hours, with more than 50 percent of those incidents occurring during recess hours. The vast majority of those cases are orthopedic injuries resulting from fights or falls.

“Our findings, based on the survey of hundreds of teachers and principals, is that a hungry child is often an angry child which can quickly escalate to violence to the point of seriously injuring themselves and others,” says Yosef-Giladi. Survey results concluded that upon implementation of the NEVET program and addressing child hunger, teachers noted improvement in attendance, participation, behavior, reduction in smoking and violence on school grounds, and even better relationships between student and teacher.

“While there are of course accidents and other incidences of injury in schools, we can and must do our part in addressing safety and violence concerns in school by addressing the issue of food security among the student body.”