SALEM, Mass— Salem students now have expanded access to the most important meal of the day. State Representative Paul Tucker and Mayor Kim Driscoll joined Project Bread, the state’s leading anti-hunger organization, along with their partners Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts at Witchcraft Heights Elementary School on Monday to celebrate Salem Public School’s commitment to ensuring all students have access to nutritious school breakfast.
Serving breakfast after the bell—instead of in the cafeteria before the school day has begun—makes breakfast an official part of the school day and increases a student’s ability and likelihood to participate. Through the Community Eligibility Program, every student in Salem is can receive a free breakfast every morning. At Witchcraft Heights, students grab their breakfast from carts in the school lobby and head to their classroom to enjoy the meal with their classmates. Since the program was implemented at the beginning of the school year, participation in the school’s breakfast program has increased from 24 percent to 65 percent.
“This program makes a huge difference in students’ ability to focus, to be ready and attentive,” said Assistant Principal Susan Carmona. “We need them there, ready to learn, and serving breakfast after the bell has been instrumental in making that happen.”
As part of the event, State Representative Tucker and Mayor Driscoll joined Witchcraft Heights students in tasting new healthier breakfast menu items created by Project Bread’s Chefs in Schools. Chefs in Schools work to ensure school breakfast is accessible, nutritious and appealing to students. Project Bread continues to work with the Salem Public Schools to develop new menu items—like their Harvest muffins, stuffed with carrots and zucchini and sweetened with raisins and applesauce—that are easy to for students to grab in the morning and are also healthier than more typical breakfast items.
“I’m pleased to join our partners, including Project Bread, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Rep. Tucker, and, most important, the staff and faculty at Witchcraft Heights, to celebrate the success of our school breakfast program and to increase awareness about its important role in support our students,” said Mayor Kim Driscoll, who chairs the Salem School Committee. “Over the last several years we have greatly expanded the availability of free breakfast, as well as lunch, and included healthier and more nutritious options for students. Research has clearly shown the connection between nutrition and educational success in the classroom. As we continue to strengthen our approaches to ensuring academic success and support for our students’ well-being, nutrition and food security are a critical piece of that work.”
“School Breakfast Programs ensure all students can start the day with a healthy breakfast so they are ready to learn,” said Erin McAleer, President of Project Bread. “We collaborate with the school community to build programs that work for everyone because each school is different and we know that. Salem Public Schools and Witchcraft Heights are true partners. They are incredibly dedicated to the kids they serve.”Along with providing support for healthier menu changes, Project Bread is working to increase access to breakfast across the Commonwealth with the support of partners Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. Together they are working to address food insecurity in schools by tackling the issue systemically and raising awareness for the incredible work educators are doing to support students in their classrooms.
A part of the partnership includes identifying Teacher Champion leaders from across Massachusetts who go above and beyond expectations in their dedication to the nutritional well-being of their students. Kelly Cronin, a teacher at Witchcraft Heights, is one of this year’s selected Teacher Champions. She received grant funds to support food-insecurity and nutrition initiatives in the district.
“We are committed to helping people live healthier lives, and we know making sure our students have enough to eat is an important part of that,” said Jeff Bellows, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Public Affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “We’re proud to partner with Project Bread and AFT-Massachusetts to celebrate and support the work of incredible teachers like Kelly who go above and beyond to ensure their students are successful inside and out of the classroom.”
“Teachers play an important role in fighting childhood hunger,” says McAleer. “They are strong advocates for kids and trusted members of the community. But they need support, resources, and partnerships to make a difference for their students without compromising their primary role as educators.”
About Project Bread: For nearly twenty-five 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 supports schools and community partners to implement and expand breakfast and summer meal programs because they are scalable and effective interventions to prevent childhood hunger. The nonprofit’s goal is to ensure that everyone in Massachusetts has reliable access to healthy food every day. For more information, visit: www.projectbread.org.
Author(s): Project Bread