Every day for the past eight years, the nonprofit organization Nevet has distributed more than 11,000 sandwiches to Israeli schoolchildren who otherwise would go hungry. It believes a child who is nutritionally satisfied is less likely to misbehave and more likely to succeed academically.
According to a recent survey released by Nevet, its hypothesis is now backed by statistics.
“Any parent or teacher knows that a hungry child is likely to be restless, act out and underperform at their studies,” Nevet CEO Rotem Yosef-Giladi said. “But the extent to which reversing childhood hunger can positively impact on school behavior was remarkable. Providing a healthy sandwich not only makes the student better behaved but directly contributes to a better overall environment for the school and better health for the student, which benefits everyone.”
According to the survey, which was conducted among principals in participating schools, 96% of schools experienced significant academic and behavioral improvement since the sandwich program’s implementation, and 89% reported higher attendance. That suggests the children looked to the school to provide them with food for the day, the report said.
“There was one particular student who would spend his recess alone because he didn’t have anything to eat when everyone else was eating,” a principal from Ramle said. “Having this sandwich to eat also gives the student self-confidence and the ability to feel part of the group.”
“Every single principal surveyed responded that they believe that this type of initiative needs to exist across the board in all Israeli educational frameworks,” Yosef-Giladi said. “The conclusion is that rectifying weak educational systems and addressing childhood delinquency isn’t always an issue of overhauling the system or finding new teachers or facilities. By implementing a universal school breakfast program, something we are working toward on a national governmental level, we can address so many of these challenges and get more students on the path to success.”
The Nevet program is in place at 238 schools throughout the country. It utilizes volunteers from within the schools, typically from the teaching staff, to discreetly distribute the sandwiches to children who have been identified as facing a particular need. The vast majority come from homes facing major economic challenges or where children are being deprived of proper nutrition because of domestic unrest or other issues.
Nevet is in the first phase of a pilot program with the Education Ministry, providing school meals for 1,600 at-risk students from 73 youth departments in seven districts, mainly in the periphery. Phase two is set to begin in September.