ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The lunch lady started it.
Nancy Bauder was tired of grade-schoolers fighting, bickering and disconnecting in her cafeteria.
“They don’t really realize that they’re cocooning themselves from other people,” says Bauder.
The food service manager at Lealman Avenue Elementary in St. Petersburg was ultimately moved to emotional action after the Parkland shooting.
Riding a trend at many Tampa Bay area schools, Bauder created a kindness program to make her cafeteria more inclusive and loving, especially in these head-down days of smartphones and social media.
Students who do not know each other that well and come from different walks of life are paired up.
In front of the students: a paper boat with celery, peanut butter and rainbow goldfish.
The kids then make a snack for the other person, all the while asking questions. Do they have pets? What are they afraid of?
On this Thursday, with fifth graders pairing up, shyness quickly turned into a loud preteen hum. The kids loving the food and the chatter.
Bauder says it is too early to tell if the program will have real impact, but so far so good.
Two young ladies, one a shy new kid, the other a social butterfly, became fast friends.
“It’s like I’m falling and she’s catching me,” Jenori said to a beaming Christina.