Foundation Voices

Flood Aftermath Brings Breakfast and New Relationships

Flood Aftermath Brings Breakfast and New Relationships

When a community is ravaged by flooding, life becomes more difficult, including the challenge of keeping children and families nourished. How can a school district help with recovery from this life-changing event? That’s the question educators in Livingston Parish, Louisiana faced.

In August 2016, Livingston Parish, Louisiana, experienced devastating flooding just six days into the new school year. When the physical damage was repaired, families were still struggling. Almost every student at the time was eligible for free or reduced school meals, which prompted district leadership to spring into action and begin the process of creating a universal meal service program that focused on Breakfast in the Classroom. But how does a district go about creating this transformation?

Ready to help was the NEA Foundation and the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom (PBIC), through their grant program for universal breakfast implementation. As Sommer Purvis, Assistant Director for Child Nutrition in the district said, PBIC was “really helpful…they walked us through what we needed to do and what we need to provide to them in order to get started.”

Starting in two schools, the team in Livingston Parish worked with all stakeholders including teachers, ESPs, administrators, and food service employees to explain the Breakfast in the Classroom program, answer questions, and develop plans. There were concerns, of course. One food technician admitted, “At first I was a little iffy…I was trying to think how it was going to be possible to get it done.”  But those concerns soon changed and she went on, “But it worked out!”

Creating a Breakfast in the Classroom program requires adults to think differently. Carolyn Vosburg, principal at Livingston’s North Corbin Junior High, said, “It is not always what is best for adults. You have to harness what is best for the children.” She asked her staff to think outside the box. With the support of the district and PBIC they created a plan where every adult participates as part of a community that cares. While there were challenges, the district worked hard to address them, answer questions, and listen to concerns.

Once the plan was in place, the PBIC grant helped the district cover start-up costs, including support for equipment and training. Recognizing that the food service staff are the engine that makes the program run, PBIC also provided short-term labor costs for additional staff to be hired, costs that were absorbed by the program once it was up and running.

Involved and supportive food service staff are essential for Breakfast in the Classroom programs to prepare, pack and deliver meals. Knowing that they had support, the food service staff in Livingston Parish were comfortable diving right in. There were even some unexpected benefits. With Breakfast in the Classroom allowing them to get out from behind the line, their interactions with students were changing, enabling the creation of mutually beneficial relationships and connections.

As we celebrate National School Breakfast Week, we’re recognizing the successes of the Livingston Parish School District, which now has Breakfast in the Classroom in six of its schools and participation rising from around 30% to 90%.

The NEA Foundation is proud to be part of the PBIC and support educators in implementing Breakfast in the Classroom. You can see the Livingston Parish story here. To learn more about Breakfast in the Classroom, please visit the PBIC website.