(Note: This event occured before schools were closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak)

It’s just after 7 a.m. in the Long Island town of Brentwood. The halls of East Middle School are dimly lit and slowly filling with staff as the morning fog outside begins to break away. The arriving staff is funneling into the cafeteria, where a new addition to the school is waiting for its grand debut.

This early March morning marked the ribbon-cutting ceremony for East’s brand-new Fuel Up to Play 60 Grab and Go Breakfast Cart. Thanks to a generous donation from GenYOUTH and the PepsiCo Foundation, students now have easier access to the healthy dairy products, like milk, cheese and yogurt that help them fuel for the rigors of the school day.

“The effects of this cart go beyond this cafeteria,” Brentwood teacher and longtime Fuel Up to Play 60 advisor Jeanine Rotolo said. “The cart is important because there are certain kids who aren’t able to have breakfast at home. Nobody feels uncomfortable here because we can all eat breakfast together. Whether it’s here in the cafeteria or grabbing it from the cart and taking it to the classroom, we can all eat breakfast together during the announcements.

“We eat, we socialize, we listen and we get ready for the day!”

East’s breakfast cart was part of a series of breakfast cart donations in the New York City area via GenYOUTH and the PepsiCo Foundation. Other cart unveilings took place at Martin Luther King School in Jersey City, New Jersey and Hamilton Heights School PS 368 in New York City.

Special guests were on hand in Brentwood for East’s cart unveiling. VIP attendees included former New York Jets Fullback and current Fuel Up to Play 60 Ambassador Tony Richardson, GenYOUTH CEO Alexis Glick, Brentwood School District Food Service Coordinator Carol Ann Grodski and, of course, students!

“Having this cart here and having an event like this, it’s an awesome way to promote dairy and breakfast to the children,” Grodski said. “We have over 20,000 students in our district, and many of those students are needy and don’t have breakfast food when coming from home in the morning.

“This cart, it gets them to be aware of the importance of dairy and breakfast, promotes camaraderie of eating with their friends, and helps them break any stigmas they may have about not having enough food at home or being embarrassed about it. We encourage them to not only eat now in the morning, but grab a cheese stick or another snack and take it with them for later in the day. It’s not just about here and now. It’s about Breakfast after the Bell and even after that, too.”

“This cart makes a positive impact in numerous ways.”

And after a morning filled with fun and exercise that was capped off with a trip to the new breakfast cart for some milk and dairy to fuel the day, the positive impact could be seen on the students’ smiling faces almost immediately.