LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Actor Jeff Bridges visited with students Monday at a Little Rock elementary school to highlight the success it and the state has had in distributing more breakfast to low-income children.
Bridges, an Academy Award-winning actor, is the spokesman for the No Kid Hungry campaign, which is trying to increase participation in school programs that provide meals for children, including its “Breakfast After the Bell” initiative in Arkansas and many other states.
Bridges talked with the kids at Stephens Elementary School over breakfast and joked later in a library assembly, “I had breakfast with a lot of you guys, and I already feel smarter.”
Almost all of the 400 students at the school qualify for free or reduced-price meals, principal Sharon Brooks said.
Bridges also led a calisthenics session with students in the school’s library, asking them to clap three times if they ate a good breakfast and to jump up and down if they believe breakfast makes them feel more intelligent.
Since the school began offering breakfast in the classroom about three years ago, Brooks said she’s seen a decrease in trips to the nurse’s office and discipline issues.
“In the morning, it is rare for me have a discipline problem with a student, because they eat breakfast with their teacher and classmates that offer them a positive start before they get into the learning,” she said. “Whatever’s bothering from home when they come in, they get to sit in a positive setting.”
The “Breakfast After the Bell” initiative asks schools to switch breakfasts out of the cafeteria and into the classroom. Campaign officials say children who come from low-income backgrounds often don’t eat the free breakfasts offered at schools because of the perceived social stigma. They also say transportation limits prevent kids who need the meals from receiving them.
Both Bridges and Bill Shore, the CEO of the nonprofit group Share Our Strength, are speaking with other governors and schools in the forthcoming weeks in an effort aimed at providing breakfast for 1 million more children in the next two years.