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A More Equal World Starts in the Classroom

By Rob Acker January 24, 2022 recognizes the International Day of Education, a day established by the U.N. to celebrate the role of education in peace and development.

Today, and every day, I’m reminded of the incredible work done by the teachers, principals, superintendents, and so many others who have dedicated their lives to educating others.

As one of our core values, equality not only shapes our culture, it also defines the way we work. But ultimately, a more equitable world starts with education — and education goes much deeper than we think. Books and classrooms are important, yet so much more happens outside the classroom that’s often overlooked. Education is supported by parental involvement. It’s nurtured by stable housing. It’s protected by neighborhood safety. It’s nourished by food security.

Young students sitting at a table eating lunch
Supporting the whole student starts with going beyond educational instruction

All of these factors are integral to giving students the best chance to learn, thrive, and grow. So while nutritious food might seem less critical to learning than textbooks, it’s these underlying intersections of supporting the whole student that amount to long-term success. And for forward-thinking institutions like Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), supporting the whole student starts with going beyond educational instruction to provide wraparound services — including everything from counseling and mental health services to nutritional support and shelter — that help each student succeed.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, it became apparent that many families served by the OUSD school district suddenly faced nutrition insecurity. More than 70 percent of the kids in the district qualify for free or reduced price lunches, and many of the district’s students rely on their school for regular meals.

To support the students’ needs for adequate nutrition, a diverse group of dedicated partners established a cross-sector relationship. This spans the nonprofit, for-profit, and education sectors, and includes the Numi Foundation, World Central Kitchen, and Eat. Learn. Play., a family foundation launched in 2019 by Bay Area restaurateur, Ayesha Curry, and her husband, Golden State Warriors star, Stephen Curry.

This collaborative partnership was responsible for serving up to 13,000 meals per week during the pandemic, for a total of about 15 million meals over the last year and a half. Not only did this partnership serve a collective mission to support the whole student, it also proved that we need bold and broad-reaching actions to ensure education and equality.

OUSD is just one shining example of what happens when creativity and collaboration are used in tandem to address the needs of students, both within the classroom and the community. So while we celebrate the important, tireless work of educators across the world on this International Day of Education, let’s also use this opportunity to find ways the rest of us can use our time, talents, and influence to think outside of the box in service of a more equal world that starts in the classroom.

For more on nutrition insecurity, listen to episode one of the Force Multiplier podcast, and read more about OUSD’s innovative approach to holistic student success.

Rob Acker, CEO at
Rob Acker
CEO at
Rob leads, a social impact center at Salesforce. focuses on delivering world-class technology to nonprofits and higher education customers.