In the fall of 2007, Doug Pitt heard some sobering statistics about poverty in Springfield, Missouri. The growing trend of poverty in his hometown was an unwelcomed shock to the native Springfieldian who had lived and worked in the community for over 40 years.
Doug shared the information with his brother, Brad Pitt. Doug told him about children living in poverty who had to share a toothbrush, a fifth grade boy who was being made fun of because he had to wear his mother’s jeans and teenage girls missing school because of the lack of personal hygiene products. The brothers felt strongly that no child should suffer physically or emotionally due to lack of food, access to medical, dental or mental health care, or hygiene issues.
Within 24 hours, Doug called upon Jim D. Morris, a Springfield businessman and community leader, and shared the discussion he had with Brad. Before the end of the business day, Jim offered to join the Jolie-Pitt Foundation and provide funding to stop the suffering of children living in poverty. The Brad Pitt-Jim D. Morris Fund immediately began providing funds for emergent needs of Springfield students in the areas of health, hunger and hygiene. With this strong foundation, administrative support from the Foundation for Springfield Public Schools and a caring community, Care to Learn was born in 2008. In 2009, Care to Learn Chapters were founded in Bolivar, Ozark, Nixa and Ozarks Technical Community College. In 2010, a Chapter was formed in Republic and in Clever, Willard and Rogersville in 2011. Fordland formed a Chapter in 2012. As of 2016, there are now 33 chapters in the state of Missouri.
The number one health reason that students living in poverty miss school is because of asthma. Asthma is a treatable medical condition when a patient has access to healthcare and prescription medication. No student should miss important school days because of preventable and/or treatable medical conditions!
Children in poverty struggle with a disproportionate amount of childhood obesity, teen pregnancy, asthma, tobacco use and depression. Investing in children’s health yields many benefits, including improved development, improved school performance and long-term savings in health care costs.
Care to Lean helps students keep their medical, dental and mental health appointments by providing cab vouchers or bus passes. Care to Learn has also purchased eye glasses and hearing aids for students. By caring for students early, they will not experience development delays that will affect their ability to learn.
Hunger is both damaging and avoidable. A child’s malnutrition influences not only
his immediate health and well-being but also his later development. Hunger has a negative impact on children’s
ability to learn in school. School-aged
children who are hungry cannot concentrate or do as well as others on the tasks
they need to perform to learn the basics.
Research indicates that low-income children who receive hunger
assistance showed improvement in standardized test scores and a decrease in tardiness
and absenteeism compared to low-income students who did not have hunger
assistance. Recent research about child
nutrition shows that, in addition to having a detrimental effect on the
cognitive development of children, under-nutrition results in lost knowledge,
brainpower and productivity for the nation.
Hungry children suffer from two to four times as many
individual health problems, such as unwanted weight loss, fatigue, headaches,
irritability, inability to concentrate and frequent colds. Hungry children are more likely to be ill and
absent from school. Hunger and
insecurity about whether a family will be able to obtain enough food to avoid
hunger also have an emotional impact on children. Anxiety, negative feelings about self-worth
and hostility towards the outside world can result from chronic hunger and food
Care to Learn
helps school personnel identify the
characteristics of a hungry child – inactivity, lethargy, reduction in play and
exploration, impaired acquisition of communication, reasoning and
problem-solving skills. Nutritional
meals are then provided to students through the popular backpack program as
well as snack closets.
One of the more sensitive issues a teacher may have to deal
with is a student with poor hygiene.
From head lice to poor oral hygiene to poor hand washing, it is not an
issue that can be ignored especially if it results in a student being ridiculed
and rejected by peers.
Poor hygiene can take a variety of forms. Because of the potentially significant social
and health implications of poor hygiene, these issues cannot be avoided. Care to Learn allows teachers to deal with
hygiene problems with sensitivity and concern for the student’s emotional
Care to Learn provides immediate access to
basic hygiene items – brushes, combs, tissues, soap shampoo, deodorant, and
toothbrushes. Through a confidential and
simple voucher system, Care to Learn also provides new shoes, coats,
underwear, socks and clothing.