Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges stopped by a Little Rock school Monday, meeting with students to highlight a breakfast-in-schools program he said should be replicated across the country.
Bridges, who school officials said most students knew from the Tron movies, visited a classroom at Stephens Elementary School while students ate. He joked around with the pupils, drew some pictures of healthful foods and later led a group in a food-themed calisthenics session.
"I've got kids myself and when I imagine not being able to feed them and how they would struggle — so many kids who are not getting breakfast struggle with being too hungry to learn," Bridges said. "If the only thing they can think about is 'Gee, my stomach is empty; I need some food,' they're not going to be able to spend that time learning. We're trying to get that turned around."
In one classroom, Bridges quizzed students about what was on the menu Monday morning. He took turns sitting with a few students, showing one boy how to wobble a pencil so it looked like it was rubber and later drawing a girl a picture of a smiling strawberry and celery after she said she liked those foods.
In an assembly in the school's media center with about 30 students, he lead the calisthenics program, asking the kids to clap if they "ate a yummy, healthy breakfast" and to wave their hands if they liked "eating breakfast at school."
"If eating breakfast makes you feel smarter, jump up and down two times," Bridges said at one point, enthusiastically joining the children as they did so.
Bridges is the national spokesman of No Kid Hungry, a campaign organized by the group Share Our Strength.
He said the Little Rock appearance was meant to highlight the successful breakfast program at Stephens as well as the Little Rock School District's summer meals program, which he said was "absolutely" leading the way.
"We're trying to let other states know that they can do the same thing," Bridges said.
Bill Shore, founder of Share Our Strength, appeared with Bridges at the school, saying they are working together in an effort to have breakfast provided for 1 million more children over the next two years.
"It's going to enable us to take this message to other states," he said. "A lot of other states are trying to decide 'do we want to invest more in getting kids school breakfast, do we want to move to breakfast in the classroom?' And when they see the successes here, it helps overcome their skepticism."