20 Years of Breaktime-Mealtime™: What’s Next?
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
“You might think feeding a child during a school break is not a big deal…but for someone on food stamps it’s just enough of an extra expense to impact other areas of life, and once again start the spiral downward. It is the cracks which create the gaps…which become the tipping point that can be one’s downfall. The Breaktime-Mealtime™ program is a critical service to keep at-risk families afloat.” – Tamra, single mother with one daughter
Bellevue LifeSpring’s Breaktime-Mealtime program was created 20 years ago to help fill the gaps in nutrition that children living in poverty face during school breaks. Without access to free and reduced-price meals through school, these children and their families struggle to put those extra meals on the table. For 20 years, Bellevue LifeSpring has been providing vital nutrition to students with boxes of nonperishable food and a voucher to purchase fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat.
Bellevue LifeSpring has always made an effort to be culturally responsive and reflect the needs of our diverse community. From the voucher, to the food we provide, to the box itself, Bellevue LifeSpring is constantly searching for ways to make nutrition more accessible to families in need.
1998: Breaktime-Mealtime is created as the “Spring Break Box Lunch program,” providing meals during spring break in four Bellevue schools.
2000: Meals are provided during Mid-Winter Break, in addition to Spring Break. Just under 10,000 meals are distributed.
2002: Breaktime-Mealtime volunteers pack boxes at Bellevue Christian Church (pictured below).
2005: The Bellevue School District begins to host Breaktime-Mealtime packings in their warehouse.
2007: Nearly 2,800 students are living in poverty in Bellevue and eligible for the free and reduced-price lunch program.
2008: Volunteers help pack over 1,600 boxes during Mid-Winter and Spring Breaks (pictured below).
2009: The voucher in each Breaktime-Mealtime box increases from $10 to $15. Just over 14,000 meals are distributed.
2011: Breaktime-Mealtime expands to provide meals during the two weeks of Winter Break, in addition to Mid-Winter and Spring Breaks.
2013: Volunteers pack boxes and help provide more than 80,000 meals to students in need (pictured below).
2017: Breaktime-Mealtime expands to provide one week of summer meals on an ongoing basis, in addition to the four weeks of school breaks. Over 122,000 meals are distributed to Bellevue students in need.
2018: A task force recommends a change to Breaktime-Mealtime to transition from food boxes to all food vouchers. On February 5th, 35 volunteers gathered for the final Breaktime-Mealtime packing and filled 1,117 boxes in three hours providing 22,340 meals to children in need (pictured below).
Starting in March, Breaktime-Mealtime boxes will be replaced by an increased value grocery store voucher to purchase food during breaks. This change is being implemented at the recommendation of Bellevue School District staff who witness the impact of the program firsthand.
“There is something more dignified about vouchers – families can come to school, get a voucher and no one will ever know they are struggling financially. Shifting from large, highly visible boxes to vouchers will likely lead to more families participating in the program – and getting critical help they need.
In addition, vouchers give families the ability to select food that meets their cultural and nutritional needs. This is especially important for families who have children with food related allergies.” – Melissa Slater, McKinney Vento Advocacy Coordinator at Bellevue School District
Bellevue LifeSpring is committed to providing families living in poverty with the best support so they can get back on their feet and break the cycle of poverty. We’re fortunate to have the partnership and guidance of the Bellevue School District in meeting these needs. We look forward to serving more students and their families more effectively than ever through this most recent change. Shifting to vouchers will allow us to be more culturally responsive and protect the privacy of the students and families we serve.
We are grateful for the time, commitment and support our valued volunteers and circle members have devoted to creating and managing this program over the past 20 years.
Bellevue LifeSpring and Breaktime-Mealtime have evolved with our community over the last 20 years. With your support, we look forward to serving our community for the next 20. You can still support vital nutrition for Bellevue kids by hosting a snack drive and by donating to Breaktime-Mealtime online.