Franklin Avenue teacher is a ‘Breakfast Champion’

Franklin Avenue Elementary School third graders Jeremy Estevez, Marielani Snide, Ryan Deacon and James Bisco chat with teacher Julie Neuser while eating breakfast at their desks to start their day Feb. 27, 2020. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

WESTFIELD – Franklin Avenue Elementary School third grade teacher Julie Neuser was surprised to receive a 2020 Teacher Champion Award from Project Bread this week, for her part in promoting nutritious school breakfasts in the school.
“I knew nothing of it. (Franklin Principal) Chris Tolpa nominated me,” Neuser said.
Project Bread is a non-profit organization committed to preventing and ending hunger in Massachusetts through advocacy, education, and community action.
The 2020 Teacher Champion Award, which is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Sheild of Massachusetts and the American Federation of Teachers, grants $1,000 to invest in the school breakfast program, and a $500 stipend for personal use.
In her nomination, Tolpa called Neuser a champion of the school’s breakfast program.
“She is the first one to offer suggestions for improvement, such as getting all classrooms sweepers to help with cleanliness. She assigns `jobs’ to students that rotate throughout the school year, so each student has the chance to learn new responsibilities. Because she is so in-tune with our families, she can identify those homes which may be food-deprived, and she regularly purchases snacks and other healthy foods that she `sneaks’ into students’ backpacks,” Tolpa wrote.

The Fresh & Fast breakfast cart at Franklin Avenue Elementary School offers students healthy, quick choices for starting their day eating breakfast in the classroom. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

Tolpa said Neuser’s support of the importance of nutritious food extends beyond her students.
“She has invited the elderly from a nearby nursing home to have breakfast with her K-Kids group before school, because she understands that food is a tool that crosses all generations. Her generosity does not stop at Franklin, as she is a regular volunteer at our city’s Soup Kitchen where many of our families go to seek additional food assistance. Mrs. Neuser will embrace any initiative that benefits our students and take it to the next level,” Tolpa said.
Neuser said that the breakfast program at Franklin is 100% free for all students. She said the award may be used to purchase cleanup supplies, or educational materials that teach children the importance of eating a healthy breakfast. Project Bread also supplies free breakfast promotional materials, including posters, bookmarks and stickers.
Neuser said as her students get food from the cart in the hallway, they have conversations about the importance of having a nutritious breakfast. She said if she sees students not wanting anything, she makes a point of walking over with them to the cart and suggesting one item.
“It’s an honor,” Neuser said about receiving the award.

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