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Teacher Champion Award Helps Promote Solutions to Food Insecurity

Participation in school breakfast is associated with better health and academic outcomes for all students and is crucial for students who may not have the ability to eat before the school day begins. AFT Massachusetts has partnered with non-profit organization Project Bread and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts to create the Teacher Champion Award to celebrate and recognize educators who have demonstrated a commitment to ending hunger in schools through school breakfast and other programs.
On August 22, five AFT Massachusetts Teacher Champions – Kelly Cronin of Salem, Sarah Cordero of Lawrence, and Jennifer Amendola, Priyadarshini Kumar, and Sonya Brown of Boston – were recognized for their work to ensure their students are nourished throughout the school day. Teacher Champions receive $1,000 to invest in a school-based nutrition program in their school or district, and a $500 stipend for personal use.
“It’s no secret that teachers often take on roles that extend beyond classroom instruction, including addressing their students’ hunger needs through classroom food pantries, snack bags and more,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “We are happy to be a part of this team coming together to recognize and support our teachers’ extraordinary efforts to ensure students’ basic needs are met and that they are ready to learn every day.”
Serving a nutritious meal to students at the start of the school day has benefits both inside and outside the classroom. Children who eat a healthy school breakfast are less likely to be tardy, more likely to retain what they are taught, experience better health outcomes and present better behavior.
“These five educators have consistently gone above and beyond – often tapping into personal resources – to ensure their students have the food they need to succeed in school,” said AFT Massachusetts Secretary-Treasurer Brant Duncan. “We’re thrilled to recognize Kelly, Sarah, Jennifer, Priyadarshini, and Sonya for their deep commitment to their students’ well-being.”
Through a legislative appropriation, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) funds Project Bread to administer the Child Nutrition Outreach Program (CNOP) through an annual grant. CNOP provides technical assistance and innovative solutions to support schools to implement and expand breakfast programs.
“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 teachers, administrators and the community to build programs that work for everyone because we know each school is different. We are proud to partner with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and AFT Massachusetts to ensure that all students throughout the Commonwealth have access to the most important meal of the day.”
Project Bread is working to increase access to breakfast across the Commonwealth with the support of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Together they launched a year-long initiative in January 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. The partnership includes identifying Teacher Champion leaders from across Massachusetts who go above and beyond in their dedication to the nutritional well-being of their students.
“Addressing food insecurity is a critical component of helping people live healthier lives—something we are deeply committed to at Blue Cross,” said Jay McQuaide, Sr. Vice President of Corporate Communications and Citizenship at Blue Cross Blue Shield. “We are proud to be a part of the team effort with Project Bread, the AFT and DESE that’s helping to set all students up for success inside and outside the classroom.”
Additional AFT Massachusetts Teacher Champions will be recognized during the 2019-2020 school year-stay tuned!

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