As I mentioned last week, I’m so pleased to be participating in this year’s #LoveHealthy campaign, created by blogger Allison Howe (Don’t Panic Mom) to promote alternative, healthy ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
I was assigned today, February 13th, for my #LoveHealthy post, which also happens to be “No One Eats Alone” Day. And I couldn’t think of a nicer subject to write about in connection with a holiday commemorating love and friendship.
No One Eats Alone Day is a one-year old campaign created by Beyond Differences, an organization dedicated to ending social isolation in middle school and making all teens feel “included, valued and accepted by their peers.” Schools sign up to participate but the day’s activities are entirely student-led, with support from the organization to help make the event successful and meaningful.
Here’s my interview with Laura Talmus, President and Co-Founder of Beyond Differences:
TLT: Is it a coincidence that No One Eats Alone day falls on or near Valentine’s Day?
LT: No! Our first National No One Eats Alone (NOEA) Day was on February 14, 2014. We purposefully selected Valentine’s Day as our theme because it can oftentimes be the one day of the year where having friends and being lonely is most exaggerated – even for school aged children!
TLT: How has the program grown since last year and how many schools will be participating today?
LT: In our first year we were in about 35 schools. We were thrilled with those results in that schools from New York to New Orleans from Los Angeles to San Francisco heard about us through social media and a few personal connections. In preparing for 2015, we set up more of a national field campaign to try and reach more schools. We’re happy to announce that this year we are already in nearly 600 schools spanning 38 states!
TLT: I know the day is teen-led — what different sorts of things have teenagers done on NOEA Day?
LT: We really leave it up to the teens in the local schools to make it their own. Schools have done everything from themed events to DJ parties to picnics to game days – the key element is to make it fun and allow the teens to meet people they would not normally hang out with. We like to think that this is an “add water” recipe and we leave it up to our student chefs to determine the best way to bring NOEA to life at their school!
We have photos from some of the schools last year that are fun to see on our website. And this year, we should be receiving a lot (!) of video and photos from participating schools all over the country so you can check back on our nooneeatsalone.org website and see what we received!
TLT: I know Beyond Differences supplies interested schools with a purple backpack of supplies to help them celebrate the day. What’s in the backpack?
LT: The backpacks are lots of fun to ship out and, we hope, for the school to receive and dig into the contents! In it, we have how-to manuals including how to get local press to cover your school’s NOEA Day event, tips on what to send home to parents, speaker announcements at school, how to organize a club-like series of meetings to plan NOEA Day, etc. Then, for the day itself, we provide ideas for suggested games, conversation cards the kids can use to mix students up from their usual groups, and lots of other fun swag for the occasion such as NOEA napkins, wristbands, balloons to decorate the area, signage, etc. We also encourage schools to get in touch with us directly if they have any questions or need any help.
TLT: Do you feel the program has lasting effects in participating schools, beyond the one day?
LT: Our goal is to change the culture of middle school. We see this is the first step in that process. Many of the schools that we are in on a permanent basis started with a no one eats alone day. Next for us is to continue expanding NOEA Day every year until every middle school in the country hears about us! We also have year-round curriculum to share for 6th – 8th grade teachers and their students, ideas for student-led community activism, ideas for student-led online activism, and options for participating in overnight leadership retreats, teacher trainings and more.
TLT: Is there anything else you’d like to share with TLT readers about NOEA Day?
LT: The key to creating lasting change in middle schools is to have that change come from the teens themselves. That’s why Beyond Differences is a student-led movement. Students listen to each other and our experience is that students want to do the right thing and love being asked to become leaders. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to see that the school campus belongs to them. They can make it more socially inclusive so that leaving someone out – no matter what their differences – is just not cool!
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Thanks to Laura Talmus for allowing me to interview her about NOEA Day. If you’re interested in having your child’s middle school participate next year, you can find information on how to sign up here.
And don’t forget to read the previous #LoveHealthy posts of my fellow participating bloggers, all of which can be found on the #LoveHealthy Facebook page:
- Sally @ Real Mom Nutrition
- Stacy @ School Bites
- Bri @ Red, Round, or Green
- Donna @ The Hanging Spoon
- Jill @ Just the Right Byte
- Kia @ Today I Ate a Rainbow and
- Natalie & Amy @ Super Healthy Kids
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy Valentine’s Day!
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