“Thrive Global” readers – and I’ve been one from day one – are rightly focused on the deep and abiding link between personal well-being and performance. Believe me, as the CEO of a national youth-wellness nonprofit and the mom of four school-aged kids, what my good friend Arianna Huffington had to say at Thrive Global’s launch about stress, overcommitment, and exhaustion as roadblocks to human potential instantly resonated with me.
Indeed, that commonality between us is one reason why “Thrive Global” and my own organization, GENYOUth, partnered last year on a landmark survey around the subject of teens and sleep. What we learned was revealing on a number of levels, and continues to be.
Because our work is directly and exclusively with young people (GENYOUth’s flagship wellness program, Fuel Up to Play 60, is in 73,000 U.S. schools), when thinking about the subject of well-being our focus always comes back to how we can enhance and support not simply our own wellness, but the wellness of youth in America.
Though it may seem that it goes without saying, daily nutrition is the primary building block of that wellness. Sadly, this is not something every child in America can count on. And that’s why I’m so proud of what our organization is doing around the vital subject of school breakfast in collaboration with a network of partners, which I’d like to share with you briefly.
As an organization, GENYOUth has the good fortune of being created through a partnership between America’s dairy farmers and the National Football League. As such, we have the wonderful ability to put the Super Bowl – the biggest event in sports – to work for the benefit of youth as part of a legacy commitment to the host city.
Just this morning in Atlanta, as part of the kickoff to Super Bowl LIII weekend, we had the very great honor of making good on a commitment to be of direct service to the 1 in 4 Georgia youth who come from food-insecure homes – a total of 400,000 children in the state.
We were pleased to announce that, with the invaluable collaboration of a truly caring blue-ribbon group of cherished partners, we will be able to increase access to 5.3 million breakfasts in 53 high-need Georgia schools in just year one of a five-year effort – and 25 million incremental breakfasts over the life of the initiative. . You can learn more about it here.
I’m proud to say that this is the second year we’ve done this – we had a similarly successful school – breakfast launch in the state of Minnesota last year in conjunction with Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis – but I tell you about it not to toot our horn, but to drive home two very important messages.
1) Kids can sometimes get overlooked in the personal-wellness debate. In discussions of wellness and well-being, and the impact of those things on performance and happiness, it’s very easy to forget that kids’ well-being is every bit as important, and yes, fragile, as that of adults – and arguably more so, considering that youth represent our collective future. In today’s world, the demands that students in elementary, middle, and high school face are every bit as daunting and pressure-filled as those that adults confront. We must not forget this.
2) Nutrition is basic to child (and adult) wellness. Things like sleep, physical exercise, de-stressing, meditation, yoga, periodically disconnecting from the Internet, and other activities and lifestyle commitments are vitally important. Yet they are meaningless if the body and mind are deprived of good nutrition. And though it may be a surprising fact to some, for many children in America school breakfast and school lunch are the primary of nutrition.
Why is this so important? Here are the facts. Children who get school breakfast achieve 17.5% higher test scores on standardized math tests, attend 1.5 more days of school per year on average, are 20% more likely to graduate from high school, earn more than $10,000 more per year as adults, and enjoy 4% higher employment as a group.
Arianna once wrote that she launched Thrive Global “to go beyond raising awareness and to create something real and tangible that would help individuals, companies, and communities improve their well being and performance and unlock their greatest potential.”
I like to think that what we’re doing is extending Arianna’s incredibly important mission to the next generation, in one of the most basic and healthful ways possible – providing high-need students with the vital nutrition that, in the end, is the foundation of all future wellness and fulfillment.