Columbus, OH (March 6, 2020) – Children’s Hunger Alliance (CHA) presented Child Advocacy Awards to Jillian Hetki, Groveport Madison Middle School North sixth-grade teacher, and the Groveport Madison Schools (GMS) for implementing Breakfast After the Bell which doubled their breakfast participation over the prior year. The Breakfast After the Bell program was responsible for the improvement in participation as GMS implemented two different models – Breakfast in the Classroom for eighth-grade and below and “Grab and Go” breakfast for the high schools.
The recognition ceremony took place during National School Breakfast Week at Groveport Madison Middle School North in southeastern Franklin County, where more than 70 percent of the enrolled children qualify for free or reduced-price meals, putting them at higher risk for food insecurity. National School Breakfast Week is a celebration of the National School Breakfast Program serving more than 14 million students every day.
Judy Mobley, CHA president and CEO, said, “There’s no better way to wrap up National School Breakfast Week than to observe Breakfast in the Classroom here at Groveport Madison Middle School North.”
According to the Food Research and Action Center’s (FRAC) school breakfast scorecard, only 56 percent of children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch participate in school breakfast.
“That is why Breakfast After the Bell is critically important,” Mobley said.
Standing in front of over 40 guests, Cathy Corbitt, Ohio Department of Agriculture’s deputy director of children’s initiatives, presented a proclamation commemorating National School Breakfast Week on behalf of Governor Mike DeWine. Immediately after, State Senator Tina Maharath (D-Columbus), presented GMS a proclamation from the Ohio Senate, recognizing their efforts in implementing Breakfast After the Bell.
During her opening remarks, Gerilee Ogden, GMS superintendent, said, “It took just one person to step out and take action.” Ogden explained that Hetki was responsible for reaching out to CHA to begin discussions on alternate breakfast models.
Ogden added, “Last spring, we began serving breakfast in the classroom as a pilot program in three of our schools. By the end of September 2019, all ten of the district’s schools were providing free breakfast to their students. In our elementary and middle schools, students eat breakfast right in their classrooms. It’s made a tremendous difference in our schools.”
Before presenting Hetki with the Child Advocacy Award, Mobley said, “Jillian is just one person. We need more ‘Jillians’ in our schools who want to ensure children don’t start the day while trying to learn on an empty stomach.”
Hetki was honored to be recognized and visibly moved when she accepted her award on stage. She told the audience that her version of breakfast in the classroom started after she discovered that 70 percent of her students were not eating breakfast through a survey distributed as part of the district’s goal to focus on the whole child beyond just academics.
“With the help of some family friends, I was able to gather food donations so I could provide these students with breakfast every day. I knew this wasn’t sustainable. I had mentioned to my dad how much it was bothering me that my students’ basic needs weren’t being met and that I couldn’t imagine coming to school hungry every day. He reached out to a friend who put me into contact with the Children’s Hunger Alliance,” Hetki said.
Mobley presented the second Child Advocacy Award to Ogden and said that the district is a great example of how we work together with schools to improve their breakfast participation. “Groveport Madison Schools’ breakfast program is a success story I share with others any opportunity I get to talk about school breakfast and how to improve participation.”
“The Breakfast After the Bell program works for our children,” Judy concluded.
About Children’s Hunger Alliance
Founded in 1970, Children’s Hunger Alliance is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in Ohio. Through their work, Children’s Hunger Alliance provides healthy meals to hungry children, advocates for legislation to improve the welfare of Ohio’s youngest citizens, and teaches nutrition and physical education to those they serve.
About Groveport Madison Schools
Covering 40 sq. mi. in southeastern Franklin County, Groveport Madison Schools is a public school district serving more than 6,000 students – preschool through twelfth grade. The District has six elementary schools, three middle schools, and one high school. It provides high-quality educational programming and many unique experiences to students having a wide array of needs, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds. The District’s and all of the schools’ colors are red and black, and their mascot is “Cruiser.”