The number of times I've had to ask a student to stop secretly (or not so secretly) eating in my class is amazing.
It ends up becoming a little bit hilarious trying to stop someone eating who clearly has only one thing on their mind - food.
I've taught teenage girls for most of my teaching career in a decile-three school. If students arrive hungry, they leave hungry - and it affects their learning.
Trying to teach subjects such as dance or physical education that require physical energy becomes especially difficult and frustrating first thing in the morning and then again straight after lunch when hungry students have no energy stores to call upon.
I vividly remember one student threatening me because I threw out a sugary drink which was against the rules in the dance studio.
I look back now at her over-reaction and wonder was it because she was hungry and it may have been her only energy source for the day.
Regardless of perhaps a poor decision in what she bought that morning, she had left it unattended and I had no idea that she was coming back for it. I remember feeling shaken up that a fizzy drink could matter that much.
But I've never gone hungry. Not really anyway.
University days were challenging at times but we always seemed to have the ingredients for chocolate self-saucing pudding which I remember having for dinner some nights.
How we managed to feed four girls for $80 per week still blows my mind. Food is expensive.
A flatmate and I also ended up with citrus poisoning (Yes, it's an actual thing).
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We consumed so many mandarins in a short space of time at our flat (we had no spare money for extra food, but a massive tree on our property).
My flatmate ended up in hospital with boils and I had over 10 mouth ulcers from too much citrus consumption on top of an unhealthy university diet.
Balanced diets are often so far-fetched from what our children and teenagers can access, that they have no choice but to eat what they can find, buy easily and copy from food behaviours modelled to them.
It is not uncommon these days to find schools across the board (primary, intermediate and high school) having regular breakfast and lunch clubs.
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It is comforting that hungry students know that they can come to school and eat something nutritious or at least filling to help them through their day.
I think about balanced and good foods when I'm in the supermarket.
I try, often unsuccessfully, to mainly shop the outer perimeter of the supermarket, reminding myself that whole, fresh foods in their most natural and basic form are the best for my family.
They are also the most expensive.
I do find myself being nosey on occasion and checking out what other shoppers are buying.
Some trolleys have the basics and others much more questionable food choices.
Is this an education issue around choosing healthier options?
Or is it that minimum wage, benefits and even working-class salaries and wages cannot compete with the rising food costs in our country?
Not everyone cares or knows what is the best way to eat a healthy balanced diet and so it is not surprising that parents reach for cheaper alternatives to fit into their family food budget.
And some people simply cannot afford to put food on the table.
So how can we begin to help our children and families in need?
One important way is supporting the annual Christmas appeals run by the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post in support of the foodbanks in Tauranga and Rotorua.
The two appeals kicked off over the weekend and continue up until Christmas.
Supporting the foodbanks for the next six weeks, residents in each area are encouraged to dig deep to donate food or money to help the those most in need in their city.
Hard times, rising living, food and petrol costs, lack of housing, poor choices and a lack of education around balanced healthy diets, budgeting and circumstances often beyond peoples control all contribute to many people facing hardship this Christmas.
Unrealistic expectations around Christmas and the holiday season add unwanted pressure on many people.
The appeals provide a major boost to services that get no respite throughout the year and really struggle to keep up with the demand of Christmas hampers to feed our most hungry.
I've seen firsthand how a lack of food can affect learning within Rotorua schools.
I encourage everyone to support the foodbank appeals and help people in need.