Pictured here: Grand Prize Winner of the #getREAL poster contest, student Zack Mullen.
Zack won a guest speaking appearance for his school in Norfolk by Author Jeff Kinney, of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series!
For more information on #getREAL, please visit their Facebook page:
To Serve and Protect:
When I self-reflected on the motto to serve, I realized I could do better. I loved my job, but often felt defeated from observing the ills of society; the domestic violence, child neglect, substance abuse, and more. I didn’t think there was anything more I could do than to “show-up” when there was a problem. I often had the compassion and intention to help, but felt limited in my abilities and resources. I later realized I was providing a temporary solution that didn’t acknowledge the cause of the problem. I also struggled with whether it was my job to help solve this problem.
If you work in public service, the phrase “not my job” stems from ignorance. When you are truly in service to people, everything is your job. This is more than a job description; it’s the ethical obligation of all people, particularly those who have chosen an occupation that requires strong moral character.
I began looking at all my calls for service with this new perspective; I was helping in a way that felt very authentic for me. True, the helping may come after the initial incident is under control, which is the beauty of the follow-up. I began responding back to residences after a domestic incident, suicide attempt or drug overdose. I realized that adult mental health issues, and most criminal behaviors, could be traced back to childhood: genetics, some type of childhood trauma, or an undiagnosed psychological issue. I thought, I need to start some type of program for kids and our community.
I developed the L.E.A.P. Program many years ago to build villages around kids. I wanted a program that would bring the community together, and help kids grow in the areas of happiness, health, safety and resilience. I realized this is how I would protect and serve; by building strong kids who grow up to be good citizens. People used to say to me, “it’s the parents job to raise kids, not the police.” My response? There’s no such thing as other people’s children.
When we build villages, we bring the community together to share the responsibility of raising children. In my community, the L.E.A.P. Program has brought so many important people into my life. These people are doing important work for our kids, and I meet with these heroes regularly to collaborate. One such meeting I had was with Donna Morin, a local nutrition coach who has an enormous passion for children eating what she calls, “real food.”
Why would a police officer network with a nutrition expert? Here’s where my job gets uniquely awesome!
Donna told me about the GetREAL Food Campaign she developed with co-founder Julie Kinney. GetREAL is a science-based non-profit with an objective to educate and motivate kids around food, and get them excited about eating real, unprocessed food. She says, “A number of studies have proven the importance of food in cognitive performance, immunity building, and disease prevention. Individual compounds in whole foods, plant foods especially, interact within the body through complex systems we don’t even fully understand yet. We just know it’s essential that our kids eat high fiber vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains on a daily basis.”
We know that obesity rates are higher than ever among children in the United States, as are behavioral diagnoses and psychological disorders. Additionally, in our fast-paced society, our children suffer from unhealthy meals-on-the-run and a disconnection from their caregivers when they don’t sit down to family dinner.
When children don’t eat well, they don’t feel well. When children put toxic substances in their body, it can cause behavioral and/or emotional issues. Weight gain is but one side effect of a poor diet, which contributes to a poor self-image. Fatigue is another side effect, causing low motivation and difficulties in school. Finally, a lack of exercise means our already stressed out kids receive none of the feel-good benefits of exercise.
When our children feel sluggish, emotionally dysregulated, and disconnected from their caregivers, they are considered at-risk. Believe this. When we build villages, we are bringing the community in to serve as positive role models and educators for children. When these integrated methods are used, risky behaviors are reduced. This is why it matters to me as a School Resource Officer.
Donna invited me to speak at their GetREAL Celebration Event, in partnership with the Hockomock YMCA. Over 4,000 children from 13 school districts participated in a poster contest about “real food!” Donna asked if I would speak about my work in the community and why real food is important to me. I was honored. I did have people ask why I was speaking at this event about nutrition, and I suppose it’s a valid question. Here are my answers:
Because I’m part of this village and passionate about raising healthy, happy, safe and resilient kids.
Because I model a healthy lifestyle.
Because I choose to support the kids in my community. Unconditionally.
I got up in front of the audience and talked about how real food gives me the energy I need to do my job as a police officer. I even threw in some jokes about cops and donuts (and how I stay far away from that stereotype!) Most importantly, I showed up for my kids in a way that was truly authentic.