Food is a ‘principal’ concern for Jordan School District
Aug 23, 2018 05:20PM
By Jana Klopsch
Principals have found that snacks can diffuse behavior issues. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
When two boys were sent to her office for acting out with aggressive behavior, Principal Cherie Wilson asked them if they’d had breakfast. They hadn’t.
“That’s the first thing I usually ask kids if they’re acting out or can’t concentrate — ‘Did you have breakfast?’ or ‘Can I get you a snack?’” said Wilson, who is principal at Foothills Elementary. “Even just a little fruit snack can make a difference in the fact that they can pay attention.”
Meeting this basic need is a top priority for principals. All 57 schools in Jordan District have a Principal’s Pantry to provide students and their families with food. Because they value this resource, 185 administrators, Jordan District employees and members of the Utah State Board of Education met this summer to assemble 1,800 weekend food packets and 1,800 school-day snack packs.
While principals traditionally focus on testing scores, discipline and graduation rates, meeting students’ basic needs is a top priority.
“I know if their basic needs are not met, then none of the other stuff matters and it’s not going to happen,” said Jen Ludlow, principal at West Jordan Elementary. “I have to make sure they are fed, that they are getting enough rest. My scores aren’t going to improve with tired and hungry children. I think that’s really key.”
The pantry’s resources are available to any student — no proof or paperwork is required.
“We always have food available for kids who are hungry — if they need a snack or if they just need a little something,” said Ludlow.
Jim Groethe, assistant principal at Copper Hills High School, said to be able to focus on learning, students need to feel loved and to have their basic needs met.
“If we can do that, then we can begin to expand into deep learning,” said Groethe. “Without it, it’s just kids sitting there wondering about their next meal.”
Groethe knows from personal experience.
“I grew up in a one-bedroom house, son of a custodian, so I know what it is to struggle and wonder where my next meal is coming from,” he said. As a young teacher, he utilized the free summer lunches for his own children and felt guilty that they ate a lot of ramen noodles at home. But he knows there are kids who would be grateful to even have noodles in their house to eat.
And that’s what they’ll have. The assembled packets included noodle cups, macaroni and cheese, fruit cups, granola bars, crackers and cheese, applesauce, oatmeal and chocolate milk.
A note from the Jordan Education Fund was included in the packets.
“We hope to let recipients know that our entire education community cares and is providing solutions,” said Steven Hall, executive director of the JEF.
Brian Larson, assistant principal at Copper Mountain Middle School, said the packets of food are a great resource for administrators and teachers to be able to support their students.
“It allows us to immediately impact their afternoon, their school day and their weekend for the better,” said Larson.
Ludlow said she is grateful the district chose this as their annual service project as part of their summer professional development conference.
“The district is really generous,” she said. “Not only do they give us the food, but they give us the people to help manage it so I’m not putting these together myself every weekend.” She said her assistant spends a lot of time each week preparing backpacks of food to send home with students for the weekend.
It took the volunteers just one hour to assemble and fill 504 boxes to stock the pantries of 36 elementary schools.
The $10,000 Jordan Education Fund spent on the packets was mainly from donations from charity drives and fundraisers (such as the Super Bowl of Caring) held last year at elementary, middle and high schools, said Hall.
“Mainly it’s kid to kid,” he said. “Our kids are helping other kids—they don’t care what school they go to.”
JEF raises $50,000 each year to stock all the Principal’s Pantries.