The Total Child

Collaborative School Breakfast Community of Practice Engages School Leaders

(Alternative School Breakfast , On The Road) Permanent link

 SchoolBreakfast CoPOverview

  In your role as superintendent, what would you say is your superpower when implementing the alternative school breakfast program within your district?”

The ability to start with the end in mind; basing every decision with what’s best for the students; have a unifying vision-- those were a few of the superpowers that superintendents saw themselves possessing when speaking on a panel during our school breakfast Community of Practice.

 These candid conversations emerged during our 1-1/2 day Community of Practice, held April 21-22 in Charlotte, N.C., which provided opportunities to cross-share and network between the 11 grantee school districts. A Community of Practice is more than a meeting —it provides a collaborative, supportive environment to work on a single issue – in this case, alternative school breakfast.

 (Pictured L-R) Supt Carrie Brock (Williamsburg, SC), Supt Mark Benigni (Meriden Conn.),Supt Susan Johnson (Hempstead, NY), Supt Dan Decker (Neosho, MO) , and Sharon Adams-Taylor of AASA

“It’s our responsibility to educate the total child,” said Superintendent Carrie Brock of Williamsburg County School District in South Carolina. “Students have a long day. We, as educators need to make sure their needs, like eating, are satisfied.”

 Looking back, if you had the chance to address a School Breakfast program challenge over again, what would you do differently?

The alternative school breakfast program helps to significantly increase the participation of needy children in the federal school breakfast program, by moving breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the hallways and classrooms.

Kathy Krey, Director of Research at the Texas Hunger Initiative on the importance of data collection at the School Breakfast Community of Practice

 The importance of data collection in assessing the impact of School Breakfast was addressed through a Community of Practice first: a guest speaker. Kathy Krey, Director of Research at the Texas Hunger Initiative highlighted a study she conducted in two urban school districts that showed that both students’ health and education are positively correlated with eating breakfast at school.

 For your school breakfast program to successfully continue over time, what does it need?

In addition to district staff, mentors from state anti-hunger organizations participate in the Community of Practice. They held workshops on topics including community eligibility, student involvement in the breakfast program, and garnering educator’s support. Each participating district works with a mentor throughout this two-year program.

“I always ask, ‘How I can help you?’” stated John Puder of the Texas Hunger Initiative, who serves as a mentor to Spring Independent School District. “As mentors, we are advocates for our school districts. My only goal is to make sure YOU as my district is a success.”

AASA is grateful to the Walmart Foundation for its support of our alternative school breakfast programs.



EQUITY SERIES: Expect the Unexpected: SEDOL Backpack Program

(Coordinated School Health, Equity Series) Permanent link

A guest post by Cecilia McKenzie, MNA, Resource Development Facilitator; Special Education District of Lake (SEDOL) County (IL)

 This week’s blog post was provided by Superintendent Thomas Moline of Special Education District of Lake County (SEDOL) in Illinois. Superintendent Moline is part of AASA Children’s Programs Coordinated School Health School Administrator Training Cadre. The article was originally featured in the district’s quarterly newsletter. It features the district’s backpack program, which provides students and their families with backpacks filled with nutritious food items, healthy eating tips, and easy to follow recipes.


 In late 2012, staff became increasingly aware of the growing number of students impacted by chronic hunger. Knowing that hunger can impact both academics and behavior, something had to be done. Staff rallied, engaged the community, found sponsors and held fundraisers. In late 2013, the SEDOL Weekend Backpack Program was born. The first year, the program served 20 students, then 68. 

 In the 2014-2015 school year, the program provided backpacks filled with nutritious food items, healthy eating tips, and easy-to-follow recipes to more than 100 SEDOL students and their families.   

  SEDOL BP Program pic 2

 Although successful, the growing program brought challenges to the already busy schedules of staff and social workers. Finding the internal capacity to support the program became increasingly difficult. Vocational Facilitator Jim Ross had now become the dedicated coordinator of a flourishing and vital program. A classroom at Laremont School became the epicenter of food drop off, sorting and distribution. Administration, principals, staff and community partners continued to collaborate to ensure success.

 But then the unexpected happened.

 While the original intent was to meet the needs of hungry students, the logistical process of finding ways to internally support and sustain the program - without adding increased stressors to teachers and social workers - evolved into a flourishing vocational program. Through their involvement with the SEDOL Weekend Backpack Program, students were having vocationally relevant experiences, while making a difference in the lives of other students and families in the community.

 A core group of middle and high school students became key players in the program. The task of delivering the backpacks to SEDOL schools and classrooms became mini-mobility trips, addressing safety issues when walking to and from buildings, proper transporting and lifting techniques, etiquette when entering classrooms, and the practice of time management and teamwork skills.


SEDOL Backpack Program Pic 1  
Pictured above: (L-R) Lorenz Uy and Tony Blein help pack boxes of food into a car.

“The students do it all,”says Vocational Facilitator and Backpack Program Coordinator Jim Ross, “Everything from going out to the cars when the food is dropped off, identifying and sorting the food, packing the backpacks, delivering the backpacks to classrooms, and then picking up the returned backpacks the following week.”

 SEDOL BP pic 3
Matt O'Brien packs backpacks.

 The SEDOL Weekend Backpack Program reminds us to appreciate the process, as well as the final outcome. The program has evolved into a win-win for all those involved. We celebrate its evolution as we welcome our newest partner, the SEDOL Foundation. Together, our students, staff and community partners will forge forward, filling bellies and changing lives.


Raising Awareness: National Youth Violence Prevention Week

(National Awareness) Permanent link

National Youth Violence Prevention Week took place the first week of April. The week is designed to raise awareness and educate students, teachers, school administrators, counselors, school resource officers, school staff, parents, and the public on effective ways to prevent or reduce youth violence.

  Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE),  a student driven organization, is a founding partner of this week. SAVE helps students learn about alternatives to violence, crime prevention, and conflict management skills.


 AASA has been an active member of the STRYVE Action Council since it began.  The Action Council is a group of organizations working towards the vision of creating “a nation of safe and healthy youth who can achieve their full potential as connected and contributing members of thriving , violence-free families, schools and communities.” (

Throughout National Youth Violence Prevention Week, AASA Children’s Programs department promoted and shared resources on social media outlets including Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram and Twitter.

 Resource highlights included information on Anger Management from the American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC research on Youth Violence Prevention with a focus on bullying. 

 See a Recap of those posts on AASA Children’s Programs Storify feature.

AASA Honored for Longtime Partnership with the Coalition for Supporting Community Schools

(On The Road) Permanent link

On April 7th, The Coalition for Community Schools presented the National Partner Award to AASA at the Community Schools National Forum in Albuquerque, NM.

 Bryan Joffe, Project Director, Education and Youth Development accepted the award on AASA’s behalf.


 "If we, as a movement, are committed to real equity rather than perceived equality, we can make community schools the reality for all of our children," said Joffe when accepting the National Partner Award on AASA’s Behalf.

 The National Partner Award is presented by the Coalition for Community Schools to a national partner that has made significant contributions to the work of the Coalition and towards growing the field. As a member on the Coalition’s steering committee, AASA has been an instrumental partner in supporting the Coalition’s work to support and grow community school’s strategies.

Pictured from Left to Right: Lisa Villarreal, Program Officer for Education, The San Francisco Foundation, Bryan Joffe, Project Director, AASA, and Martin Blank, President, Institute for Educational Leadership

 In 2011, AASA and the Coalition formed the Community Schools Superintendents Leadership Council,  that serves as a peer support group and spotlights leaders who are deepening their efforts to implement the community school strategy district-wide.

 Two exceptional superintendents also received the Superintendent Leadership Award: Teresa Weatherall Neal of Grand Rapids Public Schools (MI) and Dr. Steve Webb of Vancouver Public Schools (WA), who was a finalist for the 2016 Superintendent of the Year Award. Co-presented with AASA, the Coalition’s Superintendent Leadership Award is given to the superintendent who championed the community school strategy and led the district in the alignment and support of community schools.

 Read AASA’s press release on the organization’s recognition to learn more.
Read full profiles on all the honorees at the Community Schools National Forum.