Ate breakfast today
Off to New Britain where 100% of the kids get school breakfast every day! Kudos to the former administrators like Ron Jakubowski who worked for years to make this happen. Special thanks to Principal Elaine Cabral for hosting our visit and to 2nd grade teacher Ms. Ancher for inviting us into her classroom at Lincoln elementary. They both noted that starting breakfast in the classroom in New Britain was a bit of a journey––with some initial resistance––but now everyone embraces it as part of their daily routine.
Zuraia, a precocious 2nd grader, had my number before I had my coat off. She called me over, “Hey Mister, sit with me for breakfast!” So much for worrying I would be an intimidating presence in the classroom.
I was immediately struck by the beehive of activity and things moving like clockwork. When administrators are asked to consider breakfast they, along with the janitorial staff and teachers, are typically most concerned with logistics. But if they were to visit Lincoln Elementary in New Britain, they would see there is nothing to worry about. Each kid grabs their own pre-packaged meal provided by the food service team––a few minutes of breakfast and social time, some milk, some juice and a banana muffin. When finished, each child would clean up using a special trash (to avoid smell throughout the day), say the pledge of allegiance and move on to their math assignment.
One young boy Jayden was very proud..."watch me do math," and it was great to see another little girl helping a classmate with his assignment. Ever the professor I couldn’t resist sitting with a kid who was stuck on a problem to help him figure it out. I have written in the blog about studies that often demonstrate the efficacy of school breakfast. But stats aside you can see it in the energy and excitement as the kids start their day.
Before leaving I had an interesting sidebar with the food service person from Whitsons, Mike Koch. They serve 3,500 meals a week in just this one school (that's over 100,000 in one year!). We started doing that math on meals served system-wide...dollars into the economy...jobs. I often speak of the business case for solving hunger. Food is such a basic need and providing it to people who are struggling can certainly improve health outcomes, but it also provides so many communal benefits. It’s hard not to think of the possibilities in Hartford and the almost million dollars a year the city leaves on the table in potential USDA funding for school breakfast.
This brings my #SchoolBreakfastChallenge to a close. It was an invaluable experience, and I think that next year for Hunger Action Month we may invite more Foodshare staff to participate. I have mentioned several times that this experience will never match the realities of living in poverty––I think it's really important that I make this clear. I will go back to my routine, starting each day with a healthy breakfast...not worrying about whether I will have lunch or dinner. For me, this challenge served as a reminder that we can do better...that 1 out of every 2 kids should never have to struggle in school because they are too hungry too focus.
Now I put forth a challenge to you. Lincoln Financial––a proud partner in the fight against hunger––has provided generous support for initial planning and conversations, but we still need a lot more to maximize our impact on this issue. We need your help to answer the question, "What can we do together to leverage the million dollars a year that the City of Hartford leaves on the table for school breakfast, and how can we help other communities in Hartford and Tolland counties expand their school breakfast program?"
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.