Can you focus when you’re hungry? Imagine you’re at work trying to concentrate on a difficult report or in an important meeting, but you haven’t eaten much all day and are quite hungry. How well do you think you will be able to process and retain information? My guess is not very good at all. Imagine now that you are a growing child trying to learn all day, but your family can’t afford to feed you breakfast in the morning. That’s not going to bode well for your learning or your behavior. This is how the student breakfast program called Smoothies4Students was created – out of a need to provide healthy breakfasts to the kids who needed them most.
Smoothies4Students: Student Breakfast Program
In 2018, George A. Cesar was teaching math at Liberty City High in Miami, Florida. He was feeling frustrated because his students were grumpy, low-energy, and making silly errors in their classwork. He was discussing this with a colleague when the teacher suggested that perhaps that was because the students were hungry. The next morning he decided to survey the class. Cesar asked for a show of hands for who had eaten breakfast that morning. Out of 30 students, just four raised their hands. On top of that, he learned that if they do eat breakfast, it’s something with very little nutritional value, such as donuts, chips, or fast food – the only things available in their neighborhoods. (1,2)
That’s when he realized that the kids at his school desperately needed a student breakfast program. Not just any breakfast program, however, but one that serves something healthy that will promote healthy bodies and healthy minds. For himself, Cesar made nutritional smoothies every morning. They were, after all, healthy, quick, and easy to make. He decided to start doing the same for his students. Thus, Smoothies4Students was born. (3)
Read: Elementary school turns leftover lunch into frozen meals for children in need
A Nutritional Boost
When we say nutritional smoothies, we mean it. Cesar made these smoothies to mimic the ones he makes for himself each day. They have fruits, spinach or kale, protein, non-dairy milk, oats, and more. He says the student’s favorite flavors were pineapple and mango. Prior to the pandemic, affiliated organizations helped to distribute the smoothies to schools throughout Miami and Northwestern. Once the pandemic hit, Cesar was determined to make sure the students still got the breakfast that they needed. He began delivering to students directly.
“I was driving all over Miami, which was not very efficient, but we needed to continue to meet students where they were,” he told blackenterprise.com.
From there, partnerships formed. Summer camps and community organizations all got involved. These included Big Ideas, Girls of Transformation, Village Free(dge), and Mino Learning Collaborative. Working together they were able to reach more students in less time.
Read: California Will Become First State To Offer Free School Meals To Every Kid
An Educational Aspect
Of course, the primary goal of the student breakfasts was to make sure students had a nutritious, energy-boosting meal before starting their school day. That wasn’t the only goal, however. The teachers and volunteers involved also wanted to educate students on healthy eating and the importance of having a balanced breakfast each day. They taught the kids about the different steps that they can take to eat healthier, making sure the lessons were applicable and doable in their neighborhoods and situations.
Cesar’s dream doesn’t stop there, though. He wants to create a Nutrition Change Agent program that provides students and their families with blenders and smoothie packs. He also wants to track the impact the smoothies have on the students, not just their learning but their behavior and other impacts as well. Eventually, he said he wanted to convert the volunteer-led team to one that includes paid students and recent graduates.
“My dream is to have students essentially working most aspects of this organization, from food production to management to delivery, They’re this talented base of amazingly creative and hardworking young people who just haven’t been given an opportunity,” Caesar shared. “Imagine the power of having graduating seniors providing their little brothers and sisters and their friends with the healthy breakfasts and just what that means—the power of a community that takes care of itself. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
The last posts on social media are from August 2021 with the last articles from November of that year, so it is not 100% clear if this initiative is still running. Their donation link still appears to be functioning, however, so if you want to donate to this cause, you can do so here. Or, if you think a program like this would be highly beneficial for students where you live, you can reach out to Smoothies4Students here.
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