BRISTOL, Va. — Highland View Elementary’s innovative nutrition programs will be the focus of a segment airing this morning on the “Today” show.

The school was selected after Principal Pam Davis-Vaught received the national Educator of the Year award from nonprofit Share Our Strength last month, for her work in ending childhood hunger, she said Monday.

The segment was filmed Nov. 22 and is scheduled to air sometime after 8 a.m. as part of the NBC show’s coverage of Giving Tuesday — an annual day to encourage charitable giving at the beginning of the Christmas season.

“No Kid Hungry contacted me and asked if we would do this. I said, ‘Absolutely, if it changes someone’s perception about ending childhood hunger and how easy it is to implement these programs at school, I’m game,’” Davis-Vaught said.

Producer Samantha Wender visited the school, which has about 190 students, and spent a day immersing herself into the culture of Highland View, which includes the region’s highest percentage of children who qualified for free or reduced-price meals because their family income was at or below the federal poverty level.

During 2018-19, 94.5% of Highland View students were eligible for free or reduced-price meals, which include the Community Eligibility multiplier of 1.6 applied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Of them, 86% participated in lunch and 78% participated in breakfast, according to the state Department of Education.

“It was a wonderful experience. She was positive, she was complimentary and fell in love with the children as much as we’re in love with them,” Davis-Vaught said. “It just felt like she was one of us. It was such a blessing to be a part of a greater effort to end child hunger across the country. … I hope it impacts someone else somewhere and changes their thought process on how to do these programs because they are important.”

Highland View launched its Breakfast After the Bell program in 2014 and was the first in the Bristol Virginia division to offer an alternative breakfast model to students. Davis-Vaught also oversaw community partnerships to provide holiday and weekend backpack programs to help meet the nutritional needs of students when school was not in session.

“We are proud of the partnerships our division has had with No Kid Hungry,” Superintendent Keith Perrigan said. “Highland View is a prime example of how schools can impact every aspect of a child’s life.”

Many times, children are judged based on what people think their parents are or aren’t doing, and often many are working but struggling to make ends meet or face other challenges, Davis-Vaught said.

“What better message to teach the children here at school than to love your neighbor and try to help them the best that you can help them? It’s all about the children, so why not take care of the children and empower the family?” she said.

The programs have been well received among families of Highland View students and sparked greater involvement.

“My message for the ‘Today’ show was, at this holiday season, it would be awesome if people put aside their political differences and recognize the elephant in the classroom is child hunger and let’s deal with it; let’s put an end to it,” Davis-Vaught said. “It’s within our reach. No child should have to sit in a classroom and be hungry.”

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dmcgee@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2532 | Twitter: @DMcGeeBHC

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