Here at Table to Table, the return of fall signals the launch of our Bag a Lunch, Help a Bunch initiative and brings up a topic we all can relate to – lunch. Whether you prefer a grab & go few morsels on the run, a brown-bagged sandwich brought from home, or a sit-down 3-course affair, lunch serves to quiet midday’s growling stomach. Maybe you’re a “let’s do lunch” type of person who loves to take a break and spend a few leisurely hours lunching with friends or networking with business associates. Or are you of the belief that it’s a waste of precious time in a busy day? Lunch can serve to either re-boot your energy after a half day of work or have you yearn for an afternoon nap.
And then there’s school lunch – an important component of the school day – but often a source of angst for both parent and child (remember “trading” lunches with a schoolmate, and hearing Mom’s disappointment when you confessed at home at the end of the day?). For schools with cafeterias allowing children to choose their selections, the question – “What did you have for lunch today?” – followed by “Not mac and cheese again!” – resonates with parents. Regardless of their choice, lunch at school is important and at least we know our children are eating something of nutritive value and do not return to class hungry. The lack of an adequate midday meal can have serious effects on a child’s academic performance. Studies have shown that children in schools with lunches provided from a healthy meal vendor not only show an improvement in their schoolwork but these students are also less likely to be tired, are more attentive in class, and retain more information.
This brings us to our Bag a Lunch campaign, a fun and easy program increasing awareness to the problem of hunger and food insecurity in our communities. Run in schools and companies throughout northern New Jersey, it helps us provide lunches (and breakfasts and dinners!) to children in need, while serving as a teaching tool for those participating. According to Ho-Ho-Kus Public School Principal, Dr. Alexis Eckert, the Bag a Lunch program “teaches children how to pass goodness forward” and helps develop a child’s sense of responsibility, compassion, and kindness, and serves as a way they can “give back”. The campaign provides more than just lunch – it enables us to rescue enough food to provide 4 million (of the 20 million) meals we will deliver this year to those who need it most.
The staff at Table to Table has witnessed some very special things each year as the Bag a Lunch envelopes from participating schools are opened. Handwritten notes from children sometimes accompany the change collected from piggy banks. While it can be tedious counting all those pennies, it clearly illustrates the power of a simple lunch!