On full stomachs, a hunger to learn

Tuttle Elementary school students goof off in lunch line at the cafeteria, where they are served by "hunger heroes" from All Faiths Food Bank. "When a student's fundamental needs are met, they will be more ready to learn," Principal Tomas Dinverso says. [Herald-Tribune photo / Tim Fanning]

Tuttle Elementary school students goof off in lunch line at the cafeteria, where they are served by "hunger heroes" from All Faiths Food Bank. "When a student's fundamental needs are met, they will be more ready to learn," Principal Tomas Dinverso says. [Herald-Tribune photo / Tim Fanning]

By Tim Fanning

Attendance at Tuttle Elementary School rises after partnership with All Faiths Food Bank

SARASOTA — Four years ago, Tuttle Elementary School partnered with All Faiths Food Bank to help feed the estimated 90 percent of students who receive school-assisted meals outside of class.

Since their partnership began, principal Tomas Dinverno has seen a significant increase in student attendance — so much so that Tuttle has had one of the highest daily attendance averages in the district this year.

“Our attendance has gone way up in the last couple of years,” Dinverno said. “There are a lot of factors when it comes to attendance, but if you think about how impactful having basic needs like healthy foods and a full stomach is on kids, that’s a big deal. It means our student’s parents can focus on other things like housing that may affect the student’s life.”

Dinverno added that “when a student’s fundamental needs are met, they will be more ready to learn.”

In programs such as All Faiths’ backpack program, bags of food are provided for children during the summer school break and on Fridays during the school year so that students can eat on weekends and holiday breaks.

“We could tell that they were just hungry,” Dinverno said. “If their belly is not full, they won’t be happy and healthy and ready to learn. That is one of our core values here at Tuttle. That the students are ready to learn.”

With Tuttle’s partnership with All Faiths and other organizations such as the Rotary Club, the school has also seen its food pantry program grow from 30 families every two weeks to about 100 families.

Located on the school grounds, parents of students are invited to select from items such as a variety of nonperishable food, fresh produce and meat.

Tuttle’s experience underscores the importance of All Faiths' annual Campaign Against Summer Hunger program, which feeds children who are at risk of hunger in both Sarasota and DeSoto counties.

Almost half of the students in Sarasota County are eligible for school-provided lunches and about 90 percent of students are eligible for school-provided lunches in DeSoto.

The annual Campaign Against Summer Hunger raised $1.3 million to feed children this summer. The nonprofit organization hopes to feed an estimated 40,000 children this year.

Last year the program reached more than 31,000 children in Sarasota and DeSoto, providing 2.2 million meals. On Thursday morning at Tuttle, All Faith’s CEO Sandra Frank revealed plans to keep organization’s promise to reach their ambitious goal. Following Frank’s speech, special guests and “hunger heroes” served lunch in the cafeteria to Tuttle students.

For more information or to volunteer for All Faiths Food Bank and the Campaign Against Summer Hunger, email info@allfaithsfoodbank.org, call 941-379-6333, or visit allfaithsfoodbank.org.

Volunteers from All Faiths Food Bank serve meal to Tuttle Elementary School students through a partnership with the school. [Herald-Tribune staff photo / Tim Fanning]

Volunteers from All Faiths Food Bank serve meal to Tuttle Elementary School students through a partnership with the school. [Herald-Tribune staff photo / Tim Fanning]