Friday, September 9, 2016

Day 1: #SchoolBreakfastChallenge

No Breakfast today
We are all, to some extent, creatures of habit. I think my hand was shaking as I drove past my morning Dunkin Donuts stop today. Like a lot of energetic kids I run to the 'svelte’ side (put bluntly, I’m thin). I eat several small meals a day to sustain a high level of energy, but if I miss one it throws menot only during the day, but also at night. I don’t sleep well when I miss a meal.  

Most schools start serving lunch around 11:30, so that is my goal for lunch. It's only 9:30 and I'm already watching the clock! As I write this my empty stomach hurts. The reality is, this sucks.  

My mom is a nurse who embraced social change back in the 60s, but I’m not sure she’d be too keen on my skipping breakfast to make a point. No mother wants their child to go hungry, and why would they? Staying well-nourished means fewer trips to the school nurse, better attendance, fewer problems with discipline, and let us not forget the holy grail for some educators and parentshigher standardized test scores! 

I was thinking this morning when I played little league. My team was made up of kids from 3 different elementary schools. We all had breakfast snack every day (it used to be a big deal to be a student helper and serve breakfast snack). Now some workers balk at feeding kids breakfast because of the logistical mess...but imagine living in a household where, depending on the day of the month, there may or may not be food left in the house. What an incredible relief it would be, knowing your son or daughter are going to receive breakfast at school.

"Breakfast in the classroom” is a proven, effective approach to getting kids breakfast, and the best part is that funding is readily available in many towns. Thanks to Governor Malloy and the Department of Education for changing Connecticut law a few years ago, kids are now allowed to eat a small breakfast while they do classwork–it counts as class time. Unfortunately, while many educators and food service workers support this idea, the decision on how the program is executed often falls to individual school leaders. This means that while your friend two streets over may have breakfast in the classroom, you might attend a school where it isn't offered. Or perhaps breakfast is available, but only before the bell rings, and your bus always seems to arrive a little too late.  

That’s why you end up with some school systems like Newark with 95% breakfast participation, Bridgeport in the 80 percentile and rising, and Hartford vying for worst in the nation checking in with a meager 40%  participation rate.
It's now 10:30, and I'm still watching the clock. My head aches––this is not fun. I had to scrounge in my desk for Advil...can’t remember the last time I had a headache in the morning. My mornings usually fly by, but this one is dragging. Hope I don’t get too grouchy in the upcoming leadership meeting. 

James Arena-DeRosa, President & CEO

Join the conversation by commenting below or sharing your thoughts on social media. Don't forget to tag @Foodshare and use the hashtag #SchoolBreakfastChallenge.

You can also follow my fellow CEO at the Connecticut Food Bank, Bernie Beaudreau, as he shares his SNAP Challenge experience this week.

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