Food for Thought: Hamilton MS Students Learn About Homelessness and Hunger

Hamilton MS students made sandwiches for the homeless as part of their partnership with the Rice University Coalition on Hunger and Homelessness. Working with the coalition, students have been focusing on children who are experiencing hunger. (Photo by Michael Sudhalter/The Leader News)

Hamilton MS students have joined the fight against hunger among the homeless – especially children – and they’re in it for the long haul.

Hamilton is the only HISD middle school to partner with the Rice University Coalition on Hunger and Homelessness and Kids’ Meals to develop a program that specifically focuses on ways to feed children in Harris County, where 25.5 percent of youngsters live in food-insecure households.

The program with Rice has included three workshops on social entrepreneurship led by the Rice Coalition founder Ahmed Haque and a Sandwiches for All session at the school Sunday, where 85 students, 20 parents, 10 staff members, and 10 Rice students made 1,045 sack lunches to be distributed to the homeless. The goal had been 600 lunches, and the number was a new record for the Rice program.

The goal is a long-term strategic civic and social entrepreneurship program at Hamilton dedicated to reducing hunger among youngsters. “The fact our students recognized that not only could they help with a systemic problem like hunger, but they could emphasize the need to help their peers who are suffering from this plight, is inspiring,” said Hamilton Principal Wendy Hampton. “I want to ensure that their commitment is an example for future students passing through Hamilton. This is the beginning of what we hope is an ongoing partnership that sets an example for other schools in Houston, in Texas, and beyond.”

Haque harbors the same hope. “In a way, this is exactly what we aspired to do from the start,” he said. “We wanted to begin with a small group of people with a small idea and continue to push on it until others realized what it was worth.”

The students have learned how food insecurity is linked to poor performance in school, reduced attention in class, behavioral issues, increased school absences, a higher risk of obesity, and more suicidal or depressive tendencies among children. They’re also aware that even when help exists, families don’t always receive assistance. Less than half of all eligible families in Harris County receive the supplementary food assistance they need, coalition data shows.

While long-term strategies are important, fulfilling immediate needs – such as getting a simple sandwich to a hungry child – are a key element of social entrepreneurship, as the Hamilton students learned Sunday.