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Virtual learning impacts: meals and social outlets away from home

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -- The Wausau School District announced this week that the fall semester will be virtual.

Going virtual for an entire semester creates challenges for students and their families, especially related to nutrition and the availability of a social outlet.

There is a strong need for free and reduced lunch meal options in the Wausau area, with close to 50 percent of Wausau School District students qualifying for the program, according to Peaceful Solutions Counseling Executive Director Lee Shipway.

Shipway said that provided meals at school for students that qualify are vital because it could possibly be one of few meals, or even the only meals some kids are able to get throughout the day while away from home.

Financial circumstances within a household can play a major role in the lack of nutrition at home, especially now with virtual learning away from school.

"If a child seems to be hanging around your house all the time in the neighborhood and you think, 'Isn't if funny how they always drop by at lunch time or dinner time?' Probably because they're not able to have lunch or dinner at their house," Shipway said. "Feed that kid. Give them some food if you can spare some. I think it does take a village to raise a child and we should be looking out for other kids as if they're our own."

Shipway said lack of nutrition can hinder the amount of glucose getting to the brain, which in turn can stunt growth and affect brain matters development.

Social outlets are also vital to students who may come from a troubled home, or environment that the in-person school setting helps them to escape, which involves being around other kids and adults.

Shipway noted that some kids who may come from a troubled home, or in some cases a single parent home where the parent is working hard to provide for the family, may have a more difficult time with the social and emotional growth school helps develop. With a parent or parents that work hard to provide for the family there may be a lack of attention given that developing kids need because of work during the usual schooling hours.

Elemetary-aged kids especially will also be missing out on crucial social interactions.

"Part of that is just to learn how to socialize them," Shipway added. "How to be polite, how to take turns, how to wash your hands after you go to the bathroom. Simple little things. That interaction with human being to human being is super important for the neurons in the brain to form as well."

For families in need of resource referrals during the virtual schooling semester, related to the article you can email

Rashad Williams

News 9 Reporter

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