PHOENIX, Arizona (August 22, 2017) — Thanks to the generosity of thousands of individuals and organizations throughout the community, Valley of the Sun United Way has reached a significant milestone for its Breakfast in the Classroom program — with eyes toward expanding the program’s positive impact even farther.
United Way’s initial goal was to bring the beneficial program to a total of 130 schools that have high rates of poverty and hunger — schools where up to 100 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch programs.
Valley of the Sun United Way Women’s Leadership Council hosted actress Geena Davis at its 2nd Annual We Are United Luncheon on April 28 at The Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale. Davis was the keynote speaker for the event, which raised over $200,000 for the Breakfast in the Classroom program.
Thanks to those funds and additional funds that have come in since, Valley of the Sun United Way now has full funding for the first 130 schools — which will aid more than 74,000 students in Maricopa County. Significant additional contributions included a $60,000 donation by Raising Cane’s through their Spring Dollar Days, as well as grants from Bank of America and Tuft & Needle.
United Way is now working to finalize partnerships to implement the program in all 130 eligible schools, and is encouraging eligible school districts to sign on for the program.
“We are very gratified to meet this important milestone and achieve full funding for our initial 130 schools,” said Jayson Matthews, Director of Ending Hunger at Valley of the Sun United Way. “The impact this program has on the ability of students to more effectively learn and succeed in school is critical to their success, and the importance of Breakfast in the Classroom in helping families who are struggling to put food on the table is significant.”
Now, United Way is looking to implement a “Phase II” for Breakfast in the Classroom, targeting an additional 72 schools that have an average of 70 percent of students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch programs. The additional 72 schools account for another 33,395 students who will be aided by this key program.
“We’re excited to launch this next phase of the program and ensure Breakfast in the Classroom benefits tens of thousands of additional children and families,” Matthews said. “This second group of schools still serve areas of our community where chronic hunger is a problem, and the Breakfast in the Classroom program is a proven way to help address these issues.”
Breakfast, as the old adage goes, is the most important meal of the day. Starting school days on empty stomachs can make students more easily distracted and fare worse in class than counterparts who eat breakfast. Students who eat breakfast each day, on average, score more than 17 percent higher on math tests and are 20 percent more likely to graduate than students who don’t eat breakfast at all, studies show.
Children who eat school breakfast are more likely to, according to research, reach higher levels of achievement in reading and math, concentrate better, be more alert, retain more of what they learn and participate in class.
Alternative breakfast programs like Breakfast in the Classroom also addresses a factor holding back participation in other before school breakfast programs. Many students who are eligible for free or reduced-price school breakfast do not participate because of the stigma that only poor students go to the cafeteria for breakfast before school. Research shows that a Breakfast in the Classroom model is the single best way to increase participation and achieve the widespread gains in academic success linked to school breakfast consumption.
To learn more about the program or to make a donation, go to: vsuw.org/breakfast.