Jennifer Amendola (Edison K8 School), Sonya Brown (Boston Arts Academy), Priyadarshini Kumar (Clarence R. Edwards Middle School) honored by Project Bread, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts for commitment to ending student hunger
BOSTON, Mass— One in nine children in Massachusetts lives in a food insecure household. When children are hungry, it impacts their focus and learning abilities in the classroom. Concerned teachers across the Commonwealth are going above and beyond, often tapping into personal resources, to ensure students are nourished throughout the school day. To recognize the efforts of teachers, Project Bread and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts presented recently the Teacher Champion Awards at a ceremony in Boston, and three local Boston Public Schools teachers were honored as recipients.
Jennifer Amendola is a kindergarten teacher in Brighton at the Edison K8 School. She began collecting fresh fruit, cereal, and packaged food from the cafeteria that would otherwise go to waste and then offering it to students that may be hungry throughout the day and to take home for their families after school. In 2017, she became the homeless liaison for her school and started the “boost bag” backpack program providing approximately 40 students with food for the weekends.
To address students’ concerns of food quality in her school’s cafeteria, Sonya Brown, who is a humanities teacher at Boston Arts Academy, created a four-week class project for her students to organize a “school lunch revolution day” for the entire school. She also focuses her attention on increasing school breakfast participation at Boston Arts Academy.
Priyadarshini Kumar teaches Special Education ELA/Humanities to students with emotional impairments at the Edwards Middle School. She noticed a spike in maladaptive behaviors during morning lessons and hypothesized this was due to hunger. She advocated for her students to have a mid-morning meal and then began noticing increases student engagement and learning. Now her students receive a mid-morning snack delivered to the classroom every day, and she’s hoping to make this a schoolwide initiative soon.
To help provide youth and teachers like Amendola, Brown and Kumar with the resources they need to succeed, Project Bread has partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts to create the Teacher Champion Award. In target communities across the state, these organizations are celebrating 11 Teacher Champions who have demonstrated a commitment to ending hunger in their schools. These teachers may have launched a weekend backpack program or school-based food pantry, promoted participation in school meal programs, worked to raise awareness of the impact of child hunger, or made creative strides in addressing hunger in their school.
Teacher Champions are self-nominated or nominated by their districts. They receive $1,000 to invest in a school-based nutrition program within their school or district, such as a school breakfast program, a weekend backpack program, a school-based food pantry, or an onsite after-school supper program. Awardees also receive a $500 stipend for personal use.
“Teachers play an important role in fighting childhood hunger,” says Erin McAleer, President of Project Bread, the state’s leading anti-hunger organization. “They are strong advocates for kids and trusted members of the community. But, they need proper support, resources, and partnerships to make a difference for their students without compromising their primary role as educators.”
“Addressing food insecurity in our schools is an important part of helping people live healthier lives—something we are deeply committed to at Blue Cross,” said Jeff Bellows, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Public Affairs. “We are proud to team up with Project Bread and AFT-Massachusetts to recognize all the incredible work teachers are already doing and help them further set their students up for success inside and out of the classroom.”
“We collaborate with teachers, administrators and the community to build programs that work for everyone because we know each school is different,” says McAleer. “We are proud to partner with Blue Cross Blue Shield and the American Federation of Teachers to ensure that all students throughout the Commonwealth have access to food.”
In addition to the Teacher Champion Awards, Project Bread also awarded school districts with grants to support the implementation of a School Breakfast After the Bell program, celebrate demonstrated growth in school breakfast programs, or create healthier school breakfasts. Grant funding was used to purchase equipment or materials, source local food, provide stipends for nutrition educators, and more.
For more than twenty years, Project Bread has worked with school districts across the Commonwealth to increase participation in the School Breakfast and Summer Food Service Programs in partnership with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Project Bread’s team provides technical assistance and innovative solutions to support schools and community partners that are implementing and expanding breakfast and summer meal programs. The nonprofit’s goal is to ensure that all children in Massachusetts have reliable access to healthy meals throughout the year. For more information, visit: www.projectbread.org.
Author(s): Project Bread