AUSTIN (KXAN) - Some of the youngest minds in Central Texas are tackling a big problem in the state: childhood hunger.
According to a recent study released by the hunger relief charity Feeding America , one in four Texas children were at risk in 2010.
Round Rock teacher Rachael Brunson says she knows the feeling. Her family lived on a farm and when the crops were bad, she went without as a child.
She had to wear a special yellow tag at school in order to get free lunches in the cafeteria. Because Brunson did not want to be labeled as different, she decided not to wear the tag and chose not to eat lunch at all.
Friday, she stood in front of a roomful of students and told them her teachers and classmates never noticed.
"You do not know which kids in this room are hungry and which ones aren't. There were many, many days when I did not have enough to eat," said Brunson. "When you don't have enough to eat you find it hard to concentrate on anything except where you're going to get your next meal."
Brunson has played a key role in getting students on her campus at Elsa England Elementary in Round Rock to team up with students at Travis Heights Elementary in Central Austin.
They have been learning about the problem and brainstorming solutions. Friday students from both schools met at Travis Heights to prepare for a rally on the steps of the State Capitol in May to raise awareness about the issue.
Around 200 students learned what it takes to turn heads. They rehearsed chants like "Stop hunger now!" and broke up into small groups to brainstorm t-shirt designs so the group can stand out in the crowd.
A couple of chefs also had fresh fruits and vegetables on display to test the kids' knowledge about healthy eating and explain why it is not only important to get enough food, but also the right foods.
Teachers say children bring a new perspective to trying to solve childhood hunger.
"We look at the problem and we see it as insurmountable most of the time. They look at it as 'hey, let's tackle this, let's go and let's find a solution,"' said Brunson. "We can't wait until tomorrow for the youth to grow up and solve the problems of today. We need them to be solved right now."
The group is still waiting on Governor Rick Perry to sign off on a request for the kids to hold a childhood hunger rally in May.
If they get their chance, students and teachers will also urge lawmakers to keep funding school cafeteria programs that help feed all students.
The hunger project is part of a larger education movement called service-learning.
IN-DEPTH: What is service-learning?
Service-learning is a teaching method that combines meaningful service with everyday curriculum in the classroom that allows students to learn math, English, reading, social studies and science skills.
It provides a way for children to find an issue in their community that needs to be solved and work on a process to change it. pose.
The drought and lack of water is an ongoing issue facing Central Texas so one year, Rachael Brunson's fourth grade class developed a water conservation project.
"What we've found is that if the curriculum has a purpose, their attendance rates are higher," said Brunson. "The kids are more invested and then they grow up to be civic minded."
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