Across the country, local communities are coming together to demand more for America’s children. These individuals are taking matters into their own hands and working together to solve some of our nation’s most challenging social problems, including child hunger.
In the United States, 1 in 5 children are at risk for hunger and the problem is so severe that teachers spend $37 a month and principals spend $59 a month, on average, buying food for hungry students. NEA members are on the front lines of hunger and know which students are hungry and haven’t eaten anything since lunch the day before.
In response to the growing rise of child hunger in the United States, NEA HIN is proud to support Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC), which aims to increase breakfast consumption among schoolchildren and spark the academic and nutritional gains associated with the morning meal. This program reworks the traditional cafeteria-based breakfast by removing barriers to participation and bringing breakfast into the classroom for students to enjoy in the first 10-15 minutes of the school day.
To date, NEA HIN has partnered with various stakeholders in 12 states and 14 school districts to implement BIC and to help feed an additional 70,000 students breakfast. This achievement could not have been accomplished alone, and was only possible with assistance from national partners, teachers, educators, food service workers, parents, custodians, anti-hunger advocates, students, and community leaders coming together around a shared cause.
A fundamental premise of NEA HIN’s BIC program is stakeholder engagement and the idea that we are stronger and more successful together than we are alone. By making breakfast in the classroom a team effort from the outset, this model helps to bring key stakeholders to the table and avoids conflicts or problems. In speaking with some NEA local presidents who were involved in BIC, they had this to say about the program:
- “From the start, BIC has encouraged and built collaboration in our schools, district, and community among the administration, the school board, community partners, and our association. Through engagement of this network, BIC has spread into more of the district's schools, providing every student at the sites with equal access and opportunity for a tasty, nutritious breakfast that will help them as they go about their school day.” Cathy Koehler, President, Little Rock Education Association
- “The teachers and our school families are a community that comes together in the best interests of our children. We need to support each other in any way we can if our schools are to succeed in providing the best learning environments. The ongoing challenges to bring quality schools to all neighborhoods need the collaborative efforts of many. This [Breakfast in the Classroom] program not only impacts the lives of students, but also allowed teacher input on how best to make this work in each classroom.” Kathryn Castle, President of the Elgin Teachers Association
- “The School Board has recognized the positive benefits of breakfast for all children, and has approved increasing the local budget to include Breakfast in the Classroom to three times as many schools next year in an ongoing initiative.” Elizabeth Foster, President, Guilford County Association of Educators
These educators are raising their hands for their students and declaring that child hunger is unacceptable and is a solvable problem. Their actions have made a real difference in their communities and illustrate how parents, teachers, administrators, and students can create social movement that works and benefits students. Stakeholder engagement at every level of the school system is critical to student success. Any group wanting to engage in ending child hunger will need to involve all appropriate stakeholders in order to ensure hunger-free schools and communities.
I encourage you to plan or take part in an event in your area to bring stakeholders together and demand solutions, empower communities, and organize for action around social justice issues, like child hunger. Raise your hand and let us know what issues are important to you by continuing the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. For more information, including a National Day of Action Toolkit and event materials, please go to www.edvotes.org/ourschools.
Happy Thanksgiving! Here's the weekly roundup from BagtheJunk.org, NEA HIN's sister website dedicated to all things healthy school food:
- How to Make Healthy Foods Accessible for all Students describes how students and families living in "food deserts" are getting access to healthy options, thanks to community-based efforts.
- How Tech Tools Can Help Teach Kids Healthy Habits shares how new technology like iPads and digital wristbands and online resources like apps and twitter chats are helping schools and families stay healthy.
We hope you enjoy reading our blogs this week, and look forward to seeing you here next Thursday!