Somerville Educator Receives Teacher Champion Award

Photo:
From left: Priyadarshini Kumar, ELA/Humanities teacher at Edwards Middle School; Jeff Bellows, VP of Corporate Citizenship + Public Affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts; and Erin McAleer, President of Project Bread

Edwards Middle School teacher Priyadarshini Kumar honored by Project Bread, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts for commitment to ending student hunger

SOMERVILLE, Mass— One in nine children in Massachusetts lives in a food insecure household. When children are hungry, it impacts their focus and learning abilities in the classroom. Concerned teachers across the Commonwealth are going above and beyond, often tapping into personal resources, to ensure students are nourished throughout the school day. To recognize the efforts of teachers, Project Bread and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts recently presented the Teacher Champion Awards at a ceremony in Boston, and Clarence R. Edwards Middle School teacher Priyadarshini Kumar, of Somerville, was honored as an award recipient.

Kumar teaches Special Education ELA/Humanities to students with emotional impairments. At Edwards, she noticed a spike in maladaptive student behaviors near breakfast time. Consequently, she worked with the school’s cafeteria manager to implement a mid-morning meal to supplement the four-hour time period between breakfast and lunch. Snacks are now delivered to students at 10 a.m. every day. The intervention has increased student engagement and learning in the classroom. With additional funding, Kumar hopes the mid-day snack will become a school-wide initiative.

To help provide youth and teachers like Kumar with the resources they need to succeed, Project Bread has partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts to create the Teacher Champion Award. In target communities across the state, these organizations are celebrating 11 Teacher Champions who have demonstrated a commitment to ending hunger in their schools. These teachers may have launched a weekend backpack program or school-based food pantry, promoted participation in school meal programs, worked to raise awareness of the impact of child hunger, or made creative strides in addressing hunger in their school.

Teacher Champions are self-nominated or nominated by their districts. They receive $1,000 to invest in a school-based nutrition program within their school or district, such as a school breakfast program, a weekend backpack program, a school-based food pantry, or an onsite after-school supper program. Awardees also receive a $500 stipend for personal use.

“Teachers play an important role in fighting childhood hunger,” says Erin McAleer, President of Project Bread, the state’s leading anti-hunger organization. “They are strong advocates for kids and trusted members of the community. But, they need proper support, resources, and partnerships to make a difference for their students without compromising their primary role as educators.”

“Addressing food insecurity in our schools is an important part of helping people live healthier lives—something we are deeply committed to at Blue Cross,” said Jeff Bellows, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Public Affairs. “We are proud to team up with Project Bread and AFT-Massachusetts to recognize all the incredible work teachers are already doing and help them further set their students up for success inside and out of the classroom.”

“We collaborate with teachers, administrators and the community to build programs that work for everyone because we know each school is different,” says McAleer. “We are proud to partner with Blue Cross Blue Shield and the American Federation of Teachers to ensure that all students throughout the Commonwealth have access to food.”

In addition to the Teacher Champion Awards, Project Bread also awarded school districts with grants to support the implementation of a School Breakfast After the Bell program, celebrate demonstrated growth in school breakfast programs, or create healthier school breakfasts. Grant funding was used to purchase equipment or materials, source local food, provide stipends for nutrition educators, and more.

For more than twenty years, Project Bread has worked with school districts across the Commonwealth to increase participation in the School Breakfast and Summer Food Service Programs in partnership with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Project Bread’s team provides technical assistance and innovative solutions to support schools and community partners that are implementing and expanding breakfast and summer meal programs. The nonprofit’s goal is to ensure that all children in Massachusetts have reliable access to healthy meals throughout the year. For more information, visit: www.projectbread.org.

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