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Dominican school children in a classroom.

Published March 5, 2019

Connecting malnutrition and learning in Dominican Republic classrooms

Addressing the workloads of feeding students and teacher responsibilities

Sarah A. Robert, associate professor from the Department of Learning and Instruction, is examining how addressing the double burden of malnutrition is impacting the workload of teachers in Dominican Republic classrooms. “Feeding students at school may address the double burden of malnutrition and, more often than not, create a double burden of teaching work,” said Robert.

The double burden of malnutrition is a global phenomenon that describes the co-existence of undernourished, as well as overweight and obese individuals. Nations around the world feed their children at schools, so that students may come to school and be able to learn. Often, teachers are the individuals feeding their students in addition to teaching them in the classroom. Teachers are not compensated for the increased workload of feeding students, creating a double burden of work for teachers.

“On my first trip to the Dominican Republic, I observed the double burdens coexisting in schools in multiple regions of the country,” said Robert. “I also interviewed school directors, teachers and parents who discussed this additional work from shortening classes to accommodate distribution and consumption of breakfast and snacks, to providing plates and silverware to students, to cleaning them.”

The Dominican Republic has introduced a new School Food Program that aims to address health and education equity simultaneously. Once rolled out across the country, all elementary and secondary students will receive breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack. This, in turn, will extend public education to a full school day for public school children.

“I hope to continue conversations with the Ministry of Education officials responsible for the School Food Program,” said Robert. “The research will hopefully support their incredible efforts to address multiple inequities experienced by the nation’s youth by eradicating multiple double burdens, too.”

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