The History of The Kids' Breakfast Club
The Kids’ Breakfast Club, otherwise known as TKBC, was founded by Dr. Marlena Uhrik 21 years ago to ensure neighborhood kids and their families have access to adequate nutrition and educational activities outside of school.
The history of TKBC began when Dr. Uhrik volunteered at a local shelter to cook and serve meals for economically disadvantaged people. While cooking and serving meals, Dr. Uhrik observed kids sitting with their parents and eating but not having much to do in between meals. As an educator, this piqued Dr. Uhrik’s interest and she started thinking about developing a program that not only helped feed economically disadvantaged children and their families, but would also encompass activities that promote education and good nutrition. Such a program Dr. Uhrik envisioned would provide healthy breakfasts, reading and math literacy activities, arts and crafts activities, and parent educational activities. By incorporating these extra activities, Dr. Uhrik believed that TKBC could provide the education and empowerment underprivileged families need to make a positive difference in their lives.
The Need for The Kids' Breakfast Club in Hayward and the Hayward Area
The need to provide California’s kids with breakfast and a wide-range of educational and nutritional activities while school is not in session has not been greater than today. The participation rates for California public school students in Free and Reduced Priced Meals programs (FRMP) have steadily increased over the years. Mirroring the state’s upward trend, Alameda County in general, and Hayward schools specifically are also seeing steady upward trends in participation rates. California public school students participate in the FRPM program while school is in session. What is unknown is what kind of access California’s kids, especially our local neighborhood kids, have to good and quality nutrition and education activities when school is not in session.
The need for TKBC was then and continues to be today based on an increasing trend of school children eligible and/or participating in the federally funded FRPM program in our local school district. According to the California Department of Education (CDE), 44% of all the students in the Hayward Unified School District (HUSD) were participating in the FRPM program in 1997-98. Today, according to the CDE (2013), 68% of all the students in the HUSD are participating in the FRPM program. This is a 24% percent increase in 16 years. What is important to note here is these increases mirror state and county-wide trends and most of the students affected are in the primary grades kindergarten through 6th grade.
The TKBC board of directors evaluate a variety of variables before proposing to implement a program at a school. One of the variables is the total amount of students participating in the school’s free and reduced priced meals program. Participation in this federally funded program is one indication of neighborhood and family socioeconomic status. In Hayward, at Burbank Elementary School, out of the 765 total enrolled students, 623 (or 82%) of the kids are currently participating in the FRPM program. This means at one of the sites TKBC currently serve, virtually all of the students receive and eat two of their three main meals a day from school. When school is not in session, then questions of access to good and quality food enter into the neighborhood and family equation.
Today, 6.2 million California children go to public school, Kindergarten through 12th grade. Over half (58%) of all California’s children attending public school are participating in FRPM programs. In Alameda County, there are 220,286 public school students and 44% of them are participating in FRPM programs. Excluding the Oakland Unified School District, HUSD has the highest amount of students in Alameda County participating in FRPM programs.
Although these are the data reported by the CDE, these are conservative numbers. There are more eligible children for FRPM programs but they do not participate for a variety of reasons. For example, one reason is some parents feel if their children participated in FRPM programs their children will be treated differently by school staff and their peers. In the upper grades such as middle school and high school students are under an incredible amount of peer pressure to eat fast food for lunch. Therefore, meals in middle and high school carry a social status. Despite these issues with participation in free meal programs, what these FRPM program data tell us is, well over half of all the children attending public school are poor and kids receive and eat two of their three meals a day from one place—the school. So what do children, especially the children in our community, eat when school is out? TKBC is one organized response to this statewide, regional, and local issue.
The FRPM program data is important to organizations like TKBC for other reasons. These data give us a snapshot of the economic and social reality of our community. Furthermore, these data inform us of what we as a community need to do to ensure our kids are healthy and prepared to go to school and learn. According to the United States Census Bureau (2007), most families in Hayward earned between $50,000 and $75,000 dollars a year. So at the very least, in families where two parents are present, each parent is earning $25,000.00 dollars a year and at the very most each parent is earning approximately $38,000.00 dollars a year. Given the high costs of living in the Bay Area, most families in Hayward work very hard and are faced everyday with enormous amounts of stress just to make ends meet. TKBC works to alleviate some of these everyday family stress by providing a neighborhood-based option to families who can come have breakfast and learn something meaningful and resourceful as a family.
TKBC is a grassroots response to a local, state, national, and even a global issue—child and family hunger. For 21 years TKBC has been working within a wide-web of individuals and organizations to fight this issue and ensure everyone, especially in our community, has access to nutrition and education, especially when school is not in session.