There are several factors that have led to my support for the Breakfast After the Bell Program in Colorado. I am extremely lucky to work with the people I do, and I feel that with my knowledge and experience, I am in a position to help those whose situation I was previously in.
When I was in 7th grade, both of my parents lost their jobs, and our family had to make a difficult move from California to Colorado to live in my cousin’s basement. Because of our financial situation, both my sister and I received free lunch. Thankfully my school handled it in a way that didn’t single me out or make me feel embarrassed. However if I did have to have let my classmates know the situation I was in, I know as a 7th grader, brand new to the school, I wouldn’t have been brave enough.
My family was also on food stamps as money was very tight at home. When I did receive food for breakfast it was nothing substantial, and I often went without. My middle school did have a free breakfast program, but I could never get to school that early because my cousin was my ride and his school started even later than mine. Given my experience I can easily testify that breakfast before the bell doesn’t work, for a variety of reasons.
I was still grateful to be given free lunch though, because if I hadn’t that would have been yet another stress on my family, and even less food to fuel my day. I was then and still continue to be a student who is eager to learn. Going without food and trying to concentrate on school is an incredible challenge.
Even now when my family is much better off, on days when I wake up late and skip breakfast, I find myself drifting off during class. Food fuels learning. So much so, that many schools provide breakfast before standardized testing to improve scores.
So even though I’m in a better financial position now, I know a large majority of my community isn’t. In my school district, Denver Public Schools, we rarely have snow days. Kids who suffer from food insecurity depend on those meals, so we only cancel school under extreme weather conditions.
Just by telling my friends about the Breakfast After the Bell Nutrition Program, I found out that several of my friends have also experienced food insecurity before. We all shared stories about our hardships, and agreed that it was one of the worst periods of our lives. I found consistently among my friends that they faced a negative social stigma connected to not having enough food. I know people whose grades have suffered, hindering their future. I have encountered students who have been bullied for having to receive free lunch. School is so hard already with the pressure to fit in, the pressure to get good grades, that food is something students shouldn’t have to constantly worry about.
It’s a very scary situation, not knowing where your next meal will come from. It’s always there in the back of your mind and in the pit of your stomach. It’s an isolating feeling, with some kids keeping it a secret completely, for fear of being ostracized by their peers. These years are crucial to the rest of our lives, and we need the proper nutrition to reach our full potential. That’s why I’m behind the Breakfast After the Bell Nutrition Program, it is one way that we can be sure Colorado students, like me, have access to the food they need so they can concentrate fully in school.
About, Me, Alysh Lynch: Creativity and community awareness are two things I have gained as both a junior at Denver School of the Arts and a member of Kaiser Permanente’s Community Health Action Team. With the backing and oversight of Kaiser Permanente and Colorado Legacy Foundation, other youth leaders and I strive to create educational resources for our state’s classrooms. Additionally I participate in Teen Court where I live in Parker, Colorado. I am the President of the Student Advisory Board, and hold the record for the highest student bar exam score.