Principals across the nation work every day with one thing in their minds: the success of their students. They understand that ensuring kids have three meals a day is essential for their development. For this reason, principals have always been a critical part of ending childhood hunger in America.
Today, principals face an extraordinary set of challenges with staff shortages, burnout and the task of keeping staff and kids safe in school as the pandemic continues.
This Principal Appreciation Month, we’re highlighting two school leaders who, in spite of these challenges, continue to partner with food service staff and No Kid Hungry to ensure kids have the food they need.
Vonda Daniels - Principal at Northmore Elementary, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Vonda Daniels served as principal at Northmore Elementary for over seven years before moving on to serve as director of professional development at the school district in the summer of 2021.
With 95% of her students qualifying for free or reduced school meals, Daniels knew food was a priority during the coronavirus lockdowns. Through food deliveries, her school was able to bring meals and love directly to families in West Palm Beach.
“We had a family of six individuals that were living in the park,” she shared. “We were able to not only provide food for them, they were also able to work with our parent liaison.”
The district helped the father find a job, immediately provided support to find a place to stay and offered additional food for weekends.
“The family was very grateful. They continued to come around, and I just made sure that they knew that they were loved,” shared Daniels.
Carrie Futrell - Assistant Principal at Mountain View Elementary School, Ark.
Mountain view is a small community nestled in the Ozark mountains of north central Arkansas. The terrain is rugged and it was difficult to reach some families during the pandemic.
But Assistant Principal Carrie Futrell was determined.
Before receiving a No Kid Hungry grant that allowed their school to buy appropriate vehicles, she borrowed her husband's truck in order to deliver food to families when schools were closed.
“It has been an operation, I'll tell you. It definitely has been,” said Futrell.
With the new vehicles, Futrell was able to reach more families and deliver not only meals but also school work and supplies to kids who didn’t have internet access in remote areas.
Futrell gives credit to the success of their meal deliveries program during the pandemic to her community.
“We have lots and lots of hands on deck,” she shared. “We have people offering all the time, ‘Hey, what can I do to help?’”
Elizabeth Cochraine-Benoit, Principal at Captain Leland Norton Elementary School San Bernardino, Calif.
Elizabeth Cocharine-Benoit recognizes the importance of breakfast for families in her elementary school.
“We discovered through serving breakfast in the classroom,” she shared, “all students are able to start the day with a healthy meal that nourishes their bodies and enables them to focus on learning.”
Cochraine-Benoit has focused on the partnership with nutrition services to serve healthy meals to students while maintaining a safe COVID-ready facility. During the 2021-2022 school year, breakfast participation has more than doubled. The school used to serve 175 meals before the pandemic, now they serve over 380 meals every day.
“Since starting this program we no longer have students coming to the health office with stomach aches or informing their teacher that they are hungry because they did not have breakfast," explained Cochraine-Benoit.
This month is a recognition of those leaders who are behind the scenes, making decisions to ensure all staff are safe, school meals are out the door and kids have the food they need in times of crisis and not.
As 1 in 6 kids in America could be living with hunger, we thank school principals who understand the importance of school meals.
Join us to support school principals like Daniels and Futrell helping kids get the meals they need to be their best.