Hungry hearts have no ears



“Hungry hearts have no ears.”

This was a phrase that Ms. Kennedy, an elementary teacher, used to tell the parents of children in her class about the importance of proper nutrition and having enough to eat. After reading a research project that was conducted at the Anthony Elementary School in Leavenworth, Kansas, this above phrase makes more sense to me.

The study at Anthony Elementary School was a two-year study involving kindergartners through fifth graders. Researchers set out to discover if certain conditions would produce less antisocial behavior at school. If teaching and doing certain things would improve math and English scores on the statewide-standardized test.

These conditions included

  • Giving children low dose vitamin-mineral tablets
  • Teaching them about nutritional education
  • Serving more nutritious foods
  • Having them exercise and do physical fitness training
  • Structuring activity time instead of free time at recess
  • Eating meals in the classroom family style instead of eating in the cafeteria

It was amazing what happened over the two-year period.

  • Referrals for disciplinary action for out of control behaviors decreased a whopping 95% the second year
  • Out of school suspensions for violent acts fell by 80%
  • Teachers reported much better behavior in classrooms
  • The shift from discipline and classroom management to actual teaching subject matter was reported by classroom teachers
  • Teachers leaving the school district dropped
  • Math and English scores rose from last in the district to first in Math and 2nd in English

After reading the research listed above Barbara Wright, who is a personal friend of mine and a child development specialist in OK said, “I have seen doing all of that in addition to getting them to bed earlier makes a huge difference! Elementary age kids need 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night and most aren’t getting it!”

Wanda Parker who is a Children’s Ministry Trainer and Curriculum Developer in CA and also a friend said, “ Interesting – first thing I thought of was that they became like a family. Eating in the classroom, family style.”

Take away ideas

I think churches and those who minister to children can find several take aways in the research.

  • While you wouldn’t want to give children a multivitamin, we can tell parents about the research and let them it read it for themselves and decide what they want for their children.
  • We certainly can suggest good nutritious foods for children, and even fix bags filled with nutritional meals that can be sent home with hungry children.
  • Several churches now serve a big breakfast full of nutritional value each Sunday morning. Lower aggression in children and better concentration has been reported in children who eat the full breakfast. (I suspect the adults pay better attention in worship also.)
  • Snacks at church can change from all those crackers and goldfish to more nutritious snacks such as fruit or small sandwiches and fruit juice.
  • Set up some family style mealtime opportunities for the children in your church.

We do this in DC4K with our snacks. In my group we put a tablecloth on the table. Colorful napkins are used. All of the food is in serving bowls or set out on nice platter, drinks are in pitchers, etc. Children pour their own drinks, serve themselves and sit and visit with each other. We only allow 4 children at a time to sit at the snack table and it’s done during our “station time.”

A different kind of snacks

In my research to set up snacks in DC4K I came across some valuable information that we incorporated. Any church can adopt these ideas for snack.

  • Children under a lot of stress deplete their system of potassium.
    • We serve orange juice, bananas and tomato-based products such as salsa.
  • Children who are under stress need copious amounts of plain water to drink.
  • Children who are angry are served crunchy snacks they can chomp down on such as pretzels. They are also low on calories.
  • Children who can’t concentrate need foods that are high in protein.
    • Protein helps balance blood sugar and it increases focus.
    • We serve a lot of protein foods such as peanut butter or egg bagels. (Be sure to check for food allergies)
  • Children whose parents are divorcing or going through a crisis may want comfort foods.
    • These include applesauce, mashed potatoes, puddings
    • Or foods that feel warm and comforting in the mouth
    • Foods that remind them of happier family time such as macaroni and cheese may be craved by some children
  • Some children react to sugared foods.
    • Aggression increases for many children when they are eating sugared foods.
  • Children who are stressed, angry or aggressive need foods that raise their levels or serotonin.   Serotonin is the brain chemical that produces a feeling of well-being.
    • Carbohydrates such as bread, chocolate and complex carbs like apples and potatoes can temporarily raise serotonin levels.
    • Think serotonin in a stick – French fries or serotonin in the round – pizza.
    • Low levels of serotonin can be caused by dietary deficiencies, anxieties or extreme continued stress.
    • Low levels of serotonin have also been known to cause children to talk louder. Ever wonder why some kids from stressed families shout?
    • Low levels of serotonin are also expected for aggressive and out of control behaviors.

Hungry hearts that have no ears need food so they can know how much you care for them.

Hungry hearts that have no ears need nutritious meals so they can learn about how much God loves them.

Hungry hearts that have no ears need full tummies so the can feel the love of Jesus Christ.

What can you change to accommodate the hungry hearts in your church?






Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.