As the festivities of the winter holidays approach, so do the dreaded first semester finals. In attempts to muster the students’ high stress levels during this time, the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) and the Associated Student Body (ASB) work actively to boost energy levels. These efforts translate to the Food for Thought Program, which provides snacks throughout the day as well as dinner for students who stay after school to study. This year, the program will be stationed around campus and in the student center.
During the school day, volunteers distribute treats such as cheese sticks and clementines. The morning snack program was initiated by Paly assistant principal Jerry Berkson. “I think [morning snacks] are really good because I know some kids don’t eat breakfast or just are hungry which prevents focus,” junior Charlotte Hall said.
After school, students are given the option to stay in the library and study in a quiet environment. Several teachers for each subject are also available to help students. This year on Dec. 8-11, and Dec. 15-18, dinner will be served in the evening, from 5:30-6 p.m., in the student center. Options for food range from pizza, to chili to hot dogs depending on the day. The staff coordinating these dinners plans to broadcast the menu for the appropriate days on InFocus News.
The dinner addition of the program was brought about by Mary Ellen Bena, the secretary for the special education department, who noticed it was hard to get kids out of the library at closing time during finals. Bena contacted Berkson to inquire whether Paly can get more funds for staff in the library during finals and the weeks prior finals. Through her efforts, about 200 kids are served a night.
“Students are here all day and some stay until we close at night,” Bena said. “Having a hearty, hot, healthy meal gives students energy to make it through their evening. You would be eating something at home if you were studying there, so we provide you with the setting conducive to your study needs. We want to be as supportive as possible during this stressful time. The meal time also offers the opportunity for a fun and relaxing break. I have been providing this program for four years and students always express appreciation for this gesture.”
There are also lots of students who appreciate what the Food for Thought program offers, including junior Alice Hao. “I don’t need to worry about going home to eat…I am definitely planning to stay late for the food this year,” Hao said.