How many times have you heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Now imagine, if you will, 30,000 servings of cereal. That’s the equivalent of what AdventHealth team members have collected in food and cash donations to help fill the void faced by families everywhere during the summer months when some children don’t have access to free meals provided during the school year.
Experts say this void can have a big impact on children's health.
Angela Fals, MD, has served as medical director for AdventHealth Children’s Pediatric Weight and Wellness Program since its inception 12 years ago. The AdventHealth Medical Group pediatrician is also a Certified Culinary Medicine Specialist (CCMS) who knows well the important role food plays in feeling whole. She explains: “Your body has a desire and a need to have a certain amount of calories per day as fuel and energy. If it doesn’t receive that toward the beginning of the day, you better believe that, by the end of the day, it’s going to ask, and it’s going to ask in a really strong manner,” expressing as cravings and anxiety.
Enter AdventHealth team members.
At Texas Health Hospital Mansfield, a joint venture between Texas Health Resources and AdventHealth, Toke Mayes, director of nutritional and environmental services, organized a cereal drive to support the Mansfield Mission Center. The center, which expects to feed about 4,000 people during the summer, hosts a market that provides free necessities to anyone in need.
A friendly competition among team members resulted in 21,000 servings of cereal, a whopping 11,000 more than the original goal – and the largest cereal drive the mission center has seen.
“Cereal is one of the most requested items when children are out of school during the summer,” says Lindsey Trook, the center’s director of development. “It is something kids can prepare themselves and contains several servings.”
For its 8th Annual Cereal Drive, the AdventHealth for Women & Children Magnet and Professional Growth Council invited Central Florida Division team members to “Doughnate for a Donut.” The council collected 297 pounds of cereal and $1,013 – for a total of 8,542 servings – to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
In West Florida, Loughman Oaks Elementary School reached out to Julie Sing, volunteer services manager, about the need for food donations to the school’s summer program. Team members at AdventHealth Heart of Florida and AdventHealth Lake Wales responded in a big way, delivering more than 4,000 food items – including cereal as well as other staples such as peanut butter, tuna, fruit cups, soups – to the school for sorting into backpacks full of food that students in the program were given to help feed them and their family.
"When a child does not eat well, whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner, it's going to affect their whole entire day."
The effort was particularly close to the heart of Ernestina Lopez, a hospital unit coordinator for the ICU at AdventHealth Heart of Florida. “I was one of these kids,” she says. “I received bags like this when I went to school there. Looking back on it now, those bags really helped my family out.” Lopez’s mother, Sonia Guereca, the EVS manager at the same hospital, loaned the team her truck to transport the items.
As for breakfast being the most important meal of the day, Dr. Fals says, “I would say yes, with the caveat that pretty much every meal is an important meal of the day. In terms of monitoring blood sugars and keeping them controlled and getting to a healthier weight with an effective and efficient metabolism, absolutely, breakfast is extremely important.”
Dr. Fals recommends layering cereals that may be higher in sugar content with a low-sugar, whole-grain choice. “When a child does not eat well,” she says, “whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, it’s going to affect their whole entire day. It’s going to affect their schoolwork. It’s going to affect their behavior. It’s going to potentially have a long-term effect.”
With the start of a new school year just around the corner, Dr. Fals stresses that “one of the main things parents can do is try to keep a schedule that is very similar to the school year.” That means not only normal mealtimes, but also nine to 10 hours of sleep and a decrease in sedentary activities.