Friday, June 26, 2015

A "school breakfast dividend" that increases instructional time and boosts achievement


            When New York put $17.9 million in the budget this week to enable 500 elementary schools to switch to breakfast in the classroom, it meant 340,000 more kids will start their day with the meal they need to succeed. That’s worthy of celebration in its own right. But as they say on the late night infomercials for knives and kitchen appliances: “Wait, there’s more!”  We’re learning that the impact of breakfast in the classroom is potentially even more profound.

            A panel at Virginia’s School Breakfast Summit this month cast our school breakfast work in a new light. The four testimonials from a principal, superintendent, literacy specialist and school nutrition director went beyond the usual rhetoric that “hungry kids can’t learn.” Instead each made a related but different point about the value of alternative breakfast strategies.  They explained how breakfast after the bell increases instructional time in measurable ways.

Many kids previously came to class late most days because they would go to the cafeteria first – not early before school, but as the first period was starting – and then arrive at first period halfway through.  Alternative breakfast gave the teachers 20 minutes back and a full first period.

Increased instruction time is the coin of the realm in education circles. It is one of the most important variables in increasing the academic achievement upon which school rankings, teacher performance, and funding often ride. Accordingly legions of advocates advance and champion ideas for squeezing more class time into a finite school day.

Now apply this to our win in New York. Imagine a percentage of the 340,000 elementary school students who will start getting breakfast in the classroom having 15 more minutes of instructional time a day.  Over the course of 180 school days that would yield 45 hours of additional instruction. More than an entire week.  It is a “school breakfast dividend” that compensates for the class time that we’ve been stealing from children and teachers through the less inefficient cafeteria model instituted half a century ago.  Any calculation about return on investment for breakfast after the bell ought to include it.

There are obvious physical and developmental benefits to ensuring that children start their day well fed and ready to learn. There is also the value of eating together as a class, in a more communal setting, rather than in cliques in the cafeteria. Now add additional instructional time that benefits students and teachers alike.  There not a less expensive or more cost effective way to achieve it than the innovation moving breakfast to when and where kids are, rather than requiring the kids to navigate logistical hurdles, often beyond their control, of getting to breakfast.

There’s more to celebrate than we thought.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

From The Chefs Cycle Finish LIne


            I’m happy to report I finished the 300 mile Chefs Cycle ride from Santa Barbara to San Diego and to almost everyone’s surprise never had to get into the support van, and the automatic defibrillator never had to come out. We raised more than $330,000 for our No Kid Hungry work and had more than one thousand brand new donors to Share Our Strength. None of it would have been possible without your generous support and your wonderful friendship.

 

It was almost all fun, except for a few excruciatingly painful hills. The two fingers I am typing with are the only parts of my body that don’t hurt.

 

Most important, there are some wonderful new Share Our Strength leaders emerging among the riders, a new generation of chefs, restaurateurs, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts passionate about No Kid Hungry and eager to raise more money and more awareness. They taught me a lot about team work. If even one of the 20 riders had not been there I’m not sure I would have made it to the end. It was also a great lesson in how each of us is capable of far more than we think, of how many limitations are self-imposed and can be exceeded, and of how many people out there are looking for ways to share their strength and make a difference for others.

 

The end of the ride included a one and a half mile climb up a mountain in an area called Torrey Pines. The intimidating hill had been talked about so much in advance, in such fearsome terms, that it took on the mythic quality of a ghost story repeatedly told at a camp fire. The apprehension beforehand was almost worse than the ride itself.  If you had taken of a video of me on the climb it would have looked like a still shot, except for the sweat pouring down my face and onto the bike frame.  

 
All of the riders are already looking ahead to the next challenge, and the next way they can share their strength. Think about joining us for all or part of next year’s ride. Remember, if I can do it, anyone can!

Monday, May 25, 2015

The long and winding road of Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry


          Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry is on the verge of an achievement that many would not have thought possible.
          Memorial Day weekend was a key training milestone, with extended time for long rides.  One thing that struck me is just how much the challenges of this ride parallel the challenges we face ending childhood hunger. The chefs who are riding in Chefs Cycle will raise an incredible amount of money that will enable us to feed millions of kids.  But more important, they are demonstrating qualities invaluable to our No Kid Hungry campaign.

            Much of my time on the bike this weekend felt great. But some was not so great.  High winds on several stretches slowed my progress to a crawl. There were a few construction site detours. My chain needed to be oiled. I ran out of Gatorade before I finished. Toward the end of one long ride my legs were just out of gas and the left knee that I thought would bother me was nothing compared to my right quad. 

            Every path has variables and adversities whose specifics may not be predictable but that are guaranteed to surface. We see the same in our efforts to advance No Kid Hungry.  A new governor comes into office who is not as supportive as the last. A school food service director vacancy goes inexplicably unfilled for months. A funder we counted on gets fickle and directs their money somewhere else.  Everything takes longer than anticipated.

            There are dozens of reasons to say we’ve gone as far as we can go, just as there are dozens of reasons for getting off the bike. Many are valid. All of them get you to the same place: somewhere short of the goal. Perhaps the greatest challenge, whether on the bike or in our work, is the ever present doubt, second guessing, and fear of not accomplishing what you committed, publicly, to do.

That leaves one indispensable quality which is what Chefs Cycle and No Kid Hungry are all about: persistence. I always envision our No Kid Hungry team as walking on to the field just as everyone else who has tried but failed is walking off.  I think of Chefs Cycle going a distance that no one else thought could be accomplished, doing what Josh Wachs, our Chief Strategy Officer, insists upon in No Kid Hungry state campaigns: “getting all the way to done.”
           Participating chefs are not only raising money but personifying the role of persistence in teaching, inspiring and leading. That’s what gives me confidence we will succeed in achieving No Kid Hungry.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bearing Witness to Deep Poverty and Inspirational Leaders in Arkansas


Some things are worth waiting for. Like the two days this week we spent in Arkansas.  It has been a high priority state for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. The National Commission on Hunger made it the site of its first field visit and second field hearing.

On the one hand the suffering of impoverished families across the state is palpable. 29% of the children live in poverty which puts Arkansas at 49th  worst in the nation. 40 percent of seniors are classified as food insecure.  In Pine Bluff, where the child poverty rate is 37% what passes for an after school rec center is a life saver for many teens but in dire need of renovation and resources.

We witnessed families lining up at fire stations and churches acting as makeshift food distribution centers for a once-a-month bag of food that will last no more than 3 days. The devastating loss of jobs in a changing economy, hunger, crime, and closing schools, are met by programs that barely keep up, let alone conquer the challenges.  

On the other hand, children and families across the state are benefitting from our No Kid Hungry campaign in ways so tangible, visible and measurable that you couldn’t miss it if you tried. At almost every site, and from the lips of every witness at the hearing held by the National Commission on Hunger – whether advocate or state cabinet official- were words of praise for Cooking Matters, our summer meals strategy, and our school breakfast work.  It was a day for pride in the service of each and every one of us at Share Our Strength.

 

At Martin Luther King elementary school we saw breakfast in the classroom in operation.  The efficient choreography of carts rolling down the halls, insulated bags and boxes being dropped off, and kids eating pancakes or cereal as they settled themselves for the day was state-of-the-art. 24 of 32 schools in Little Rock now offer breakfast after the bell.  

 

For me the takeaway from the trip is the need to resist the temptation to accept the unacceptable. Economic constraints and political division acclimate us to the notion that giving people just enough to get by is a reasonable standard. So we enable them to survive but certainly not thrive. Our political system aims interventions to hit somewhere above desperation but far below dignity. 

 

Thanks to our No Kid Hungry campaign, breakfast in the classroom, dedicated teachers, parents and administrators, and great local partners like the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, that won’t be the case for those kids at Martin Luther King elementary. After the pledge of allegiance, the students remained standing and recited this pledge too:

 

I pledge my loyalty to Dr. King’s dream by

Serving all humanity

To my school

To my teacher and by

Holding fast to my dreams

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Giving "sharing strength" a whole new meaning via Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry


            A three course dinner has always been more my speed than a three day bike ride, but we’re giving “sharing strength” a whole new meaning with our first 300 mile bike ride called Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry. I’m neither a chef, nor within 20 years of the majority of the other riders, but I’m hoping that either pride or pity will lead you to support my ride which will helps us feed hundreds of thousands of American children. Join me @ http://join.nokidhungry.org/site/TR/Events/DD_Pers_Fund_13?px=3108579&pg=personal&fr_id=1300

 

            In June, I’ll be riding 300 miles over three days, from Santa Barbara to San Diego (which on the map at least looks all downhill). Your support – large or small – will help take my mind off of the following concerns:

 

§  The combined age of my knees is 120 years old, a fact that is physiologically not relevant but mentally devastating (you’ll know what I mean someday)

 

§  Proper cycling shorts are not a luxury but a necessity unless you plan to stand at dinner while the rest of your friends and family sit and eat.

 

§  Instead of my conditioning peaking on the week of May 25, 2015 per the Endorphin Fitness training manual we are using, it will have peaked sometime during May of 1995.

 

Thanks for helping Share Our Strength create yet another vehicle for generating the resources necessary for ending childhood hunger in America. With 46 million Americans living below the poverty line, the needs of our nation’s children are greater than ever – and having a great impact on our schools, our health care system, and ultimately our economic competitiveness. 

 

One of our challenges here is to design new opportunities through which people can share their strength. I know that if we succeed we’ll inspire even more people than ever to get involved. So my pitch is “If I can do it, anyone can!” 

 

Again, a link to my donation page can be found @ http://join.nokidhungry.org/site/TR/Events/DD_Pers_Fund_13?px=3108579&pg=personal&fr_id=1300, and a link to some of your favorite chefs is @ http://www.chefscycle.org/ Thanks for considering getting behind our effort.

 

Billy

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Knees the combined age of 120 and other things I worry about while training for Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry


              Picasso said “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.”  I’ve got the solitude part nailed.  Many Chefs Cycle riders organize group rides but I’m in a different city every day and my only window is 4:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. So it’s just me and the birds to break the silence. (I like to think the birds are singing not laughing.)  Besides I doubt I would be able to keep up with the group.

            The constant travel means I have to keep renting bikes and searching out new bike paths.  Here are the top five things I worry about as I go:

-          The combined age of my knees is 120 years old, a fact that is physiologically not relevant but mentally devastating (you’ll know what I mean someday)

 

-          That I won’t be able to find a Dunkin Donuts, Corner Bakery, or Arby’s when I need one (something that also differentiates me from my more fit riding colleagues)

 

-          That I will accidentally use some of the choice words I use when I am struggling on a steep climb, when struggling to get Nate to behave.

 

-          That while I’m celebrating finishing a 40 mile training ride, Allen Ng, Jason Roberts, Sara Polon and Mary Sue Milliken are celebrating an 80 mile training ride.

 

-          That instead of my conditioning peaking on the week of May 25, 2015 per the Endorphin Fitness training manual, it will have peaked sometime during May of 1995.

A big part of ending childhood hunger is overcoming fear of failure. That’s also a key ingredient for completing this ride.  As is finding more ways for more people to share their strength. I’m in awe of and inspired by my fellow riders who are doing just that.  As you’ll see from the Chefs Cycle website (http://www.chefscycle.org/)  this turning into serious money for our No Kid Hungry campaign

Confidence building donations on my personal fundraising page are much appreciated and enable us to feed thousands of additional kids. @  http://join.nokidhungry.org/site/TR/Events/DD_Pers_Fund_13?px=3108579&pg=personal&fr_id=1300