Baylor Football Players Team Up with the Texas Hunger Initiative to Promote Breakfast

  • THI Baylor football Jamie Jacobs
    Baylor junior football student-athlete Jamie Jacobs is surrounded by students at La Vega Elementary School during a Texas Hunger Initiative event promoting the importance of breakfast. (Mattthew Minard/Baylor Marketing & Communications)
  • THI Baylor football Jamie Jacobs2
    Baylor junior football student-athlete Jamie Jacobs is surrounded by students at La Vega Elementary School during a Texas Hunger Initiative event promoting the importance of breakfast. (Mattthew Minard/Baylor Marketing & Communications)
  • THI Baylor football Grayland Arnold
    Baylor freshman football student-athlete Grayland Arnold talks with a student at La Vega Elementary School about fueling for the school day with a good breakfast. (Mattthew Minard/Baylor Marketing & Communications)
  • THI Baylor Football at La Vega Elementary
    (L to R) - Grayland Arnold, Ryan Kelly, Jonathan Hockman and Jamie Jacobs greeted students at La Vega Elementary School as they joined the Texas Hunger Initiative in promoting the importance of breakfast. (Mattthew Minard/Baylor Marketing & Communications)
March 14, 2017

Grayland Arnold, Jonathan Hockman and Jamie Jacobs greeted students at La Vega Elementary then joined them for breakfast

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, 254-710-6275
Follow Lori on Twitter at @LoriBaylorU
Follow Baylor Media Communications on Twitter: @BaylorUMedia

WACO, Texas (March 14, 2017) – Three Baylor University football players – who had just completed a 6 a.m. workout – teamed up with Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) and students at La Vega Elementary School in Waco on Tuesday to raise awareness about the importance of breakfast and the work of THI in helping reduce food insecurity in Texas.

Students arriving at 7 a.m. were greeted and then joined for breakfast by freshman cornerback Grayland Arnold from Kountze; junior running back Jonathan Hockman, a double major in economics and finance from Park City, Utah; and junior defensive end Jamie Jacobs, a health/kinesiology/leisure studies major from Waco and a graduate of Midway High School. The players were accompanied by Ryan Kelly, associate director of football operations.

“We are building these guys not just as athletes but as people and as citizens and people in the community,” Kelly said. “So, when they can see the influence they can have on these kids, walking around, seeing them smile, talking to them, it means something to them, and that’s a part of the process of what we do of becoming a man and what Coach Rhule has been putting in place. It’s not just a football process, but it’s the process of becoming a man and these things that you do add up and compact and build into who you are when you graduate.”

Hockman’s parents both worked as he was growing up, so he ate breakfast and multiple meals at school. The early morning visit didn’t damper Hockman’s enthusiasm or that of his teammates’ Arnold and Jacobs as they interacted with the La Vega students and encouraged them to make breakfast an important part of their school day.

“It’s really about who you reach through football. These kids look up to us, and it’s important that we can maintain that outreach and perspective of giving back to the community and back to others, and I’m happy and blessed to be able to do this,” Hockman said.

With more than 1 in 4 children experiencing food insecurity in Texas, the public school system continues to grow as a primary infrastructure for reigning in childhood hunger.

According to the School Breakfast Scorecard released in February by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), during the 2015-16 school year, 63.1 out of every 100 low-income students eating lunch at school in Texas are also eating breakfast at school. This is compared to the national average of 56 percent and earns Texas the eighth-best ranking nationally for school breakfast participation.

The Texas Hunger Initiative works with school districts, like La Vega ISD, and communities across the state to improve participation in school breakfast through innovative alternative service models, like Universal Breakfast, Breakfast in the Classroom and Grab and Go.

“It is exciting for a first-, second- or third-grader to see some local sports figures, successful younger students who are proven athletes and have proven academically that they’re doing great. They’re great role models in the community,” said Dave Thiel, La Vega ISD child nutrition director. “It just adds so much. We always appreciate it when Baylor supports us and comes out, and Texas Hunger Initiative has been a really good supporter of our program here at La Vega, in many different ways.”

“It means a lot. These kids really look up to us,” said Jacobs, who has a younger brother at home. “They see us as heroes, so to come here and spread the word [about breakfast], they really listen to us and for them to tell their friends how important breakfast is and eating healthy, it really helps a lot.”

Recent studies have found that making breakfast part of the school day improves academic performance, creates healthy habits and helps Texas students focus on learning instead of an empty stomach.

“Aside from the health and the academic performance aspects, all school nutrition programs – breakfast, lunch and the supper program that La Vega does and other schools do – are important. Breakfast maybe the most so, just because a lot of kids who are food insecure will be going the longest time between their last meal, which sometimes would have been in the afterschool meal program or even lunch,” said Craig Nash, child hunger outreach specialist with THI, who helped connect the Baylor football program with La Vega Elementary.

“Breakfast gives them relief from that hunger, but it also helps give families a little more freedom and relieves the economic, budgetary effect on them. It helps families that may be having a tight week or tight month and may have lack of access to food, for whatever reason, it gives them the opportunity to not worry about what their kid will eat in the morning,” Nash said.

THI’s innovative model addresses food insecurity at all levels – local, state and federal – by organizing systems and helping people work together to create more efficient and effective programs and policies that reduce hunger in Texas.

“We help communities think strategically about solving hunger,” said Jeremy Everett, senior director of THI at Baylor. “La Vega ISD is just one example of the success that can be achieved when programs operate efficiently and individuals work collaboratively, and the result has been more meals for children and families, in Waco and across the Texas.”

Kelly was proud of his players’ willingness to go above and beyond of what is expected from their daily schedules. “They know what it’s like to be on the other end as a kid and see a Baylor football player walk in or a big athlete, so they know the impact that it can have, and it means something to them. So, they take a lot of pride in it, and it’s something that they really want to do,” he said.

ABOUT THE TEXAS HUNGER INITIATIVE

Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) is a capacity-building, collaborative project dedicated to developing and implementing strategies to end hunger and reduce poverty through policy, education, research, community organizing and community development. THI convenes federal, state and local government stakeholders with nonprofits, faith communities and business leaders to create an efficient system of accountability that increases food security in Texas.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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