COLUMBUS — The Southern Local School District was recently honored as “Breakfast Program of the Year” by the Ohio Children’s Hunger Alliance in the Hyatt Regency “Regency Ballroom” in Columbus. Some of the biggest leaders in public service and in the business world gathered in Columbus for the 25th Annual Children’s Hunger Alliance “Menu of Hope” luncheon aimed at ending food insecurity for children.
Hunger touches the lives of more than 1 in 5 children in Ohio. That means more than 529,000 children live in food-insecure households, not knowing where their next meal is coming from.
Attending the banquet on behalf of the district were Superintendent Tony Deem, Principal Tricia McNickle, and Federal Programs Director Scott Wolfe. Wolfe accepted the award from Judy Mobley, President and Chief Executive Officer, of the Ohio Hunger Alliance; and Dee Haslam, honorary Co-Chair for the event.
In addition to the Breakfast Program of the Year Award, Southern Local also received a commendation from the Ohio General Assembly and another commendation from the Ohio Senate.
Senator Frank Hoagland sponsored the Senate award, while District 94 State Representative Jay Edwards sponsored the house commendation. Representative Edwards joined the Southern triage at the banquet, and presented the award personally. Edwards has been an advocate in the fight against hunger in all of Southeastern Ohio and statewide.
Also present was Sonja Hill, the Southeast Regional consultant for the Ohio Children’s Hunger Alliance. Hill was integral in Southern Local receiving an Ohio Hunger Alliance grant and ‘Breakfast in the Classroom Grant’ that has allowed Southern to become so successful.
“This is a huge honor,” said Deem. “It is an honor that comes with what we try to do every day — ‘Do What’s Best for Kids’. That has always been my motto as superintendent. To get an award for this is just a bonus, and a tribute to the folks at Southern Local. We have a severe need for programs such as the breakfast program and the assistance provided through the Hunger Alliance.”
“We are proud to be recognized as the Breakfast Program of the Year in the State of Ohio and to bring this award back to Meigs County,” said Scott Wolfe. “Much hard work by our entire teaching staff, support staff, and our kitchen staff went into making our program a success and they all share in receiving this distinguished award.”
“The Hunger Alliance grants were important in allowing us to get equipment, hot bags, warmers, and carts to get the breakfasts out to the kids,” noted Deem. “We are fortunate to have them as our partners.”
Principal Tricia McNickle said, “In the past we had kids that were tired, hungry, and genuinely in need of a nutritious breakfast. We have a great need in our district and our breakfast program is a big part of what we try to do for kids.”
McNickle has joined forces with school counselors and staff, and community sponsors to send home a sack lunch on the weekends for nearly 100 students.
High school principal Daniel Otto has played a big role in the success of the breakfast program, but was the administrator in charge of the district and was unable to attend the event. The Southern Local School Board was also recognized for their support of the program.
Prior to receiving the award, a video featuring the Southern breakfast program was played on the big screen. The video was narrated by members of the Southern administration.
The keynote speaker for the 25th Annual Menu of Hope Luncheon was legendary sports icon Sugar Ray Leonard, who has united with OHA to knockout childhood hunger. With a deep calling towards and a passion for humanity, Sugar Ray Leonard has always been devoted to his community and helping those in need. Through the work of the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation, he is committed to helping children lead healthier lives through diet and exercise, equipping them with the champion’s personal, raw and uplifting message of hope, endurance, resilience and commitment.
Leonard, an Olympic Gold Medalist, went 37-3 in his career as a professional boxer, earning ten world titles against former world champions Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran (twice), Ayub Kalule, Thomas Hearns, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, and Donny Lalonde
The annual event drew a crowd of over 850 people who helped the alliance in its quest to raise $50,000 to help make sure children in Ohio are fed. Two sponsors matched donations up to $25,000 each, allowing the event to raise $100,000 to fight hunger. Leonard pitched in $5,000 to the cause.
Other awards went to Chillicothe City Schools for “Summer Program of the Year”, Nadine Whitten “In-home Child Care Provider of the Year”, Shell’s Learning Center, “Child Care Center of the Year”, and Columbus State Community College, “Afterschool Program of the Year”.
This year, Nationwide, AEP, the Children’s Hunger Alliance and ABC 6/FOX 28 teamed up to help end childhood hunger. Columbus affiliate ABC 6/FOX 28 anchors Bob Kendrick and Stacia Naquin emceed the event that hosted numerous celebrities including Governor Mike DeWine, The Ohio State University President Michael Drake, OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, numerous State Senators and Representatives, and many leaders of corporate America
Columbus City Council President Shannon G. Hardin and Dee B. Haslam, CEO of Haslam Sports Group, are this year’s honorary Co-Chairs for the Menu of Hope.
Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) joined Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine to address the crowd. DeWine noted that programs sponsored by the Hunger Alliance can play a key role in helping children have a good education. DeWine acknowledged that hunger is a common problem that he hears about weekly from teachers.
“Teachers have kids who come to school hungry and teachers observe that,” said DeWine. “Teachers know that hunger has a real impact on a child’s ability to learn,”
Scott Wolfe added, “We never dreamed how big a deal this was until we saw such a large crowd in the banquet hall. The award is great, but is secondary to what we as administrators and teachers try to do daily and that is help kids be successful. We are really humbled. Hunger is real and we try to do our part to eliminate it in our part of the world.”
“We want to especially thank Sonja Hill (former Southern graduate) for her role in advocating for kids in the Southeastern part of the state,” added Wolfe.
Wolfe also noted that the weekend sack-lunch program is operated completely on donations and donated goods. He urges folks or organizations to donate directly to the school or to the Ohio Children’s Hunger Alliance. Call McNickle for details.
The Children’s Hunger Alliance, in collaboration with community partners, helps provide millions of meals each year to children who need us most.
Information submitted by Southern Local School District.