2023 “Cereal Effect” helps combat childhood hunger

2023 “Cereal Effect” helps combat childhood hunger

Westchester schoolchildren go hungry every day amid pandemic instability and surging food costs. Ursuline students remain committed to doing something about it. 

On Wednesday, September 20, 2023, The Ursuline School celebrated its third annual “Cereal Effect.” The goal is simple and urgent: to help topple childhood hunger in the local community. 


This year, Ursuline students led the entire school community, including parents, alumnae, alumnae families, faculty, staff, friends, and an increasing number of community partners, in raising awareness about childhood hunger and gathering donations of breakfast cereal to stock the food pantry at HOPE Community Services (HOPE). Students surpassed their goal by collecting over 2,800 boxes since the start of the new school year.

The Cereal Effect is part of the back-to-school routine for the entire school community, which takes its motto of Serviam personally. Students line up donated cereal boxes like dominos, weaving a path throughout the school. After the last box is in place, a single touch begins a chain reaction to the delight of students, faculty, and staff, who cheer as the boxes fall, creating a domino effect. The powerful visual helps even middle schoolers see how one positive move can lead to another and make a tremendous impact.  

The school-wide service project, which began as a student-led activity in the fall of 2021, continues to create a buzz in the broader community. This year, The Cereal Effect garnered support from various community partners, including Saints John & Paul School and Parish in Larchmont, Annunciation-Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Crestwood, The Indian American Cultural Association of Westchester, ACME Markets, and Wykagyl Country Club. 

“It’s inspiring to see how The Cereal Effect has grown with an increase in donations and community partnerships,” said Cathy McCarthy, director of philanthropy, who has organized the student team each year. “Our success is directly attributable to the ingenuity of the event's exceptional student leaders.” Principal Napoli adds, “We are delighted to empower these young women and give them the tools they need to create a meaningful difference in our community!” 

Pictured above L-R: Senior leaders Caralyn LoConte '25 and Lena Gilardi '24


Lena Gilardi ‘24 and Caralyn LoConte ‘25 have led the project for the past two years. Given their ongoing experience as HOPE volunteers, the students predict that this single donation will provide HOPE families with cereal through December.

Representatives from HOPE, the region's largest emergency Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen - and a familiar service site for Ursuline students - report a significant increase in requests for breakfast cereal each September. Feeding Westchester, a non-profit devoted to hunger relief, reports that the need for food assistance has more than doubled due to the pandemic, citing that two in five households are now at risk of hunger in the county. 

Sylvia Hamer, executive director of HOPE, confirms, “This is the largest single donation of breakfast cereal ever!”  She and her team were on hand to participate in the celebration and thank students for their efforts. Watching the rolling path of toppled boxes, she adds, “This is the largest donation we’ve ever seen from a school!”

Cheers erupt in the lobby as the last cereal box falls, completing the Domino Effect of giving to HOPE.

The Cereal Effect is a welcome reminder that the spirit of Serviam is alive and well at Ursuline. New students and families will find no shortage of opportunities to live out the school motto, with nearly one-third of Ursuline’s student-led clubs devoted to service. Click HERE to view the video and watch the action unfold.

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