TEANECK, New Jersey (WABC) -- A program to combat social isolation and foster a culture of belonging took center stage Friday at a middle school in Bergen County.
Eyewitness News was in Teaneck as Benjamin Franklin Middle School observed No One Eats Alone Day.
For far too many students, lunchtime can be lonely, but the nationwide effort is working to ensure that no one in the cafeteria eats alone.
The pandemic has increased social anxiety and since kids were alone without friends, they suffered when it comes to not only learning loss, but developing friends through interaction.
Cue cards were on the tables to suggest topics for discussion while several ambassadors monitored the lunchroom to make sure the students were having meaningful engagement.
"You don't ever want to see somebody being alone and not have someone to talk to because you don't know what that person's going through, so we like to be kind and spread kindness around to everybody like you would want someone to do to you," ambassador Syniah Scott said.
It's the second year the school took part in the program and the principal said it will continue.
The program, created by the nonprofit group Beyond Differences, aims to help students get to know each other better and make all students feel welcome and accepted for who they are.
It features in-class lessons, interactive drills and an art project focusing on empathy.
In the end, organizers say, students end up with tools to become social isolation disruptors and ambassadors of belonging.
The program was part of the school's month-long citizenship theme.