No One Eats Alone Day Focuses on Importance of Inclusion in Youth
Innovations & Initiatives, Transforming Communities
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has transitioned the traditional school experience to distance learning for much of the country, middle school can still be a difficult time for fifth through eighth graders. As friend groups shift and individual development progresses, it's vital that youth understand how whole health can be impacted by the smallest actions. The Centene Charitable Foundation sponsors No One Eats Alone Day in partnership with the nonprofit Beyond Differences to help combat bullying and social isolation. Developed with the goal of promoting inclusion in middle schools across the country, student-led events were sponsored by Centene in more than 130 schools during the first quarter of 2020.
Chosen to coincide with Valentine's Day on Feb. 14, National No One Eats Alone Day emphasizes the importance of friendship, connection, and collaboration. Organized and implemented before the COVID-19 pandemic, school-wide presentations outlined the concept of social isolation and how it can affect all aspects of a child's life. Events stressed positive prevention tactics and empowered youth to change the culture in their schools through classroom activities, brainstorming sessions, and leadership training.
Many of Centene's health plans participated in this year's initiative by hosting events at middle schools in Florida, Missouri, Indiana, and other states. In line with Centene's local approach, each school tailored the event to their student population.
Sunshine Health, Centene's Florida health plan, joined Skyway Elementary in Miami Gardens to observe No One Eats Alone Day on Feb. 10. To encourage conversation, several of the children performed a dramatization about playing outside during recess. During the initial performance, the children did not engage with a child who was hard of hearing. The class then discussed what they observed and how the children could include all participants. In the dramatization that followed, the children invited everyone to play with them while overcoming their differences and learning about their commonalities.
Centene's health plan in Indiana, MHS Indiana, visited fifth and sixth graders at Stout Field Elementary in Indianapolis. As part of the event, a group of high school students performed pieces based on real-life situations the students face every day regarding relationship issues. MHS also had special guests in attendance, including local media, who participated in the lunch portion of the event.
Home State Health, Centene's health plan in Missouri, hosted a No One Eats Alone event at Jury Elementary in Hazelwood. Students discussed how to recognize social isolation and address bullying.
As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, promoting inclusion and addressing social isolation has never been more important to the health and well-being of all students nationwide. As the world adjusts to online learning and social distancing, Beyond Differences is focusing on creating a virtual curriculum for 2021. The Beyond Differences Teen Board, comprised of students, is creating and starring in a series of professionally produced video lessons from the No One Eats Alone curriculum. Teachers will use the videos to spark powerful conversations and serve as the framework for interactive exercises on loneliness and social isolation in youth.
Additionally, Beyond Differences is developing a robust professional development program that addresses important issues around shelter-in-place and loneliness, as well as trauma caused by exposure to racism.
"I am so proud of the work we have done at Beyond Differences over the last 10 years to bring awareness to social isolation and provide tools to teachers in more than 6,000 schools to make their schools more welcoming and students feel respected and included regardless of their differences," says Laura Talmus, co-founder and executive director of Beyond Differences.