A Sodexo manager once shared a story about a boy who would come by the school cafeteria at closing time every Friday afternoon to ask if there was any leftover food he could take home. The manager gave him what he could, and he would stuff the food in his backpack. The manager eventually learned that the boy was asking for the food to help feed his younger brother and sister who had no source of good nutrition during the weekend.
The manager then approached teachers, staff and administrators in the school district to share this story and soon realized that there were many other kids in the exact same situation as this boy, but they were largely anonymous because they did not have the courage to ask for help. This inspired our manager to take action by pulling the combined resources of Sodexo, the school district and the community to establish a formal backpack weekend feeding program that would ultimately help all district students in need of hunger assistance.
The power of that example stayed with me and I realize that we have a tremendous opportunity to improve the communities we serve by taking advantage of the resources and partnerships we foster as a company. It’s about empowering our own teams and others with a strategy to give back, but within their means – where they live and work. That’s something that the outstanding hunger organization Share Our Strength excels at as well.
In my role as president for Sodexo’s K-12 segment, I am constantly amazed by the power of students who recognize a need among their peers and then rally to see it met. I find Schools for No Hungry Kid, and its new turn-key program, No Kid Hungry, Every Kid Healthy, very exciting because not only is it an excellent vehicle for instilling the critical nutrition and wellness habits that students need to ensure growth and academic performance, but it also takes advantage of the natural instinct inside children to help their peers by promoting activities for students that help raise funds for other children who are less fortunate, but equally deserving of fair access to nutritious meals. Students get to choose one or more “Every Kid Healthy” activities during the program and they collect monetary pledges from friends, family and neighbors – all of which goes to help end childhood hunger in America.
Sodexo understands the importance of engaging students to support other students and we incorporate that approach into our own work creating healthy learning environments that support student achievement at school districts nationwide. For example, Sodexo partnered with Chef Remmi, a 12-year-old student in Oklahoma, by naming her Sodexo’s official student ambassador to nutrition and wellness. Chef Remmi helps reinforce Sodexo’s positive nutrition message through videos, appearances and marketing materials that get kids excited about healthy eating.
In addition to our peer-to-peer education approach, I am also very proud of the many ways our K-12 teams across the country work to fight childhood hunger. Whether at one-off events like Sodexo employees from Detroit Public Schools supporting the work of a regional food bank at a local Radiothon or through annual programs like our Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarships, we support the communities we serve just like the way that Schools for No Kid Hungry and No Kid Hungry, Every Kid Healthy mobilize youth to create innovative solutions to childhood hunger.
I encourage everyone reading this to learn as much as they can about the need for hunger assistance in their own community and to get involved by volunteering, collecting, donating or supporting groups like Share Our Strength. To learn more about Schools for No Hungry Kid and to find out how you can help fight childhood hunger, visit: http://nokidhungry2.org/schools
Stephen Dunmore is president for the Schools segment at Sodexo, overseeing the work of teams at nearly 500 K-12 partner organizations nationwide.