No One Eats Alone is a lunchtime school event that seeks to reverse the trends of social isolation by asking students – for one lunchtime period - to engage in a simple act of kindness at lunch. Students make sure that no one is eating alone and they make an effort to eat with new classmates and peers. Developed by a national organization – Beyond Differences - No One Eats Alone Day 2015, held in February, saw more than 400,000 middle school students participate -- in over 700 schools in 38 states, including Connecticut.
In 2015, just over a dozen participating schools in Connecticut included North St School (Windsor Locks), Broadview Middle School (Danbury), Eastern Middle School (Greenwich), O.H. Platt High School (Meriden), Fairfield Woods Middle School (Fairfield), Washington Middle (Meriden), Northeast (Stamford), Schaghticoke Middle School (Warren), King Street Intermediate School (Danbury), Dag Hammarskjold Middle School (Wallingford), Orville H. Platt High School (Meriden ), Avon Middle (Avon), and Moran Middle School (Wallingford).
Among the partner organizations from across the country is Sandy Hook Promise, based in Newtown.
As the 2015-16 school year got underway, one Connecticut middle school decided not to wait for the annual observance, scheduled for February 13, 2016.
Derby students were greeted on the first day of school by staff all sporting red t-shirts with the logo and words "No One Eat Alone.” The shirts signify the kickoff of a new program that several education organizations hope to launch across every district in the state, the CT Post reported. Derby Schools Superintendent Matthew Conway told the CT Post that he would like to see “no one eats alone” practiced every day.
Involved in the project in Connecticut are the Connecticut Education Association, Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, Connecticut Association of Schools/Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, Beyond Differences and Derby Public Schools.
California-based Beyond Differences (beyonddifferences.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending social isolation in middle schools across the country and creating a culture in which all kids feel included, valued and accepted by their peers. The organization is based on the tenet that students are in charge of their own campus culture of inclusion.
Social isolation is a problem in every school, officials say, emphasizing that the problem of social isolation to be universal. They also “acknowledge the relationship between social isolation and bullying and violence. By reducing social isolation, we believe we can help end much bullying and violence.”
Beyond Differences we are dedicated to helping teens and schools make social inclusion the new reality. The organization was founded by the parents of Lili Smith who was born with a cranial facial syndrome and was socially isolated during her middle school years, the organization’s website explains. After Lili died at the age of 15 due to medical complications from her syndrome, a group of teens from the local community banded together to bring change to their local schools. They had not realized that they had been leaving Lili out from all the fun social get-togethers. Upon hearing about Lili's feelings of being left out, they were determined to never let anyone feel that way again. The initiative was born.
Officials stress that “school communities with a culture of inclusion will have far fewer instances of bullying and cruelty. We believe that much of the bullying and violence in our schools can be addressed by treating the underlying causes, rather than just the symptoms.”