It was an innocent question — but it reduced her to tears.
“Today I cried at work. Not because I hate my job,” grade school teacher Brooke Goins, 21, wrote in a Facebook post that’s now going viral around the world. “Today I cried for a child, a child who so innocently talked about food, and the lack of it.”
The Tennessee educator was caught off guard when one of her students asked “when the lady that puts food in his backpack was coming.”
Turns out he was referring to the Jacksboro Elementary School’s guidance counselor, but Goins didn’t know if she’d be in — as it was a “short week” before fall break. So she asked her student what the guidance counselor gave him that he liked so much.
Was it the crackers? The macaroni bowls? The SpaghettiOs?
“He looked at me and said, ‘those little os’ (as he made a small circle with his hand),” Goins wrote. “We don’t have those at my house, but when I do have them they give me a warm belly and help me sleep.”
She added, “I lost it, I cried in front of 20 little people. No kid should ever be hungry, ever,” in the post that’s amassed more than 44,000 reactions and 37,000 shares since being posted on Oct. 2.
The student’s words moved Goins beyond tears — and into action. She texted a group of teachers, and they pooled their money to buy the hungry child enough food to last him through his fall break.
But the Jacksboro Elementary School’s faculty knows that’s just a Band-Aid for a widespread problem.
The federal poverty level — the minimum amount of money a family needs each year to afford necessities — is set by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Almost 40 million people (12 percent of all Americans) lived in poverty in 2017, according to the most recent US Census Bureau stats.
That means more than 11 million US children are living in “food insecure” homes, the US Department of Agriculture reports.
That doesn’t necessarily mean there is no food in the household, the nonprofit No Kid Hungry campaign finds — but it can mean portions are too small or parents aren’t able to afford nutritious options.
That’s why Goins and her fellow teachers are “starting a food pantry for our students,” she wrote. “Students will be able to get food whenever needed! If you would like to help, we are accepting food donations as well as hygiene products! [Mail them to] 164 Jacksboro Elementary School Road, Jacksboro, TN 37757. You can put attention FOOD PANTRY.”