What is Free Lunch Academy?

Free Lunch Academy is an artistic outreach program that uses drama to prevent drama while helping to heal trauma throught the communities we serve.
Since 2014 Free Lunch Academy has successfully merged the worlds of arts, culture and entertainment (ACEs) to provide counter narratives to the all too common adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) endured by most of today’s youth and young adults.
By meeting students where they are at developmentally and teaching them how to prefer to learn innately, Free Lunch Academy has successfully enriched, empowered and employed over 50,000 students, parents and educators throughout the Chicagoland area in just a few year’s time.
Through live performances, workshops, community events and more our portfolio of services has established Free Lunch Academy as the nation’s fastest growing provider of social emotional artistic learning services.
Our goal is to help decrease threats of violence among youth, resolve conflict within schools and eradicate bullying related behaviors world wide by October 1, 2025.

A School of Thought

Providing Food for Thought

Firmly Rooted in Educational Entertainment

Calvin King is a transformative educational leader whom possesses a unique blend of traditional pedagogy skills coupled with next generation character development expertise ideal for empowering the leaders of tomorrow, today. Serving as the Founder and Executive Director of Free Lunch Academy, nfp, King focuses on meeting students where they are at developmentally and teaching them how they learn innately through social emotional artistic learning. Calvin is a visionary when it comes to producing positively “edutaining” performances, workshops, programs and events where learners of all ages become empowered to demonstrate measurable outcomes in dynamic group settings and fast paced environments.

Equipped with over a decade of experience in providing value adding services, primarily for at risk youth from high risk communities, King has a proven ability to guide diverse learners towards their respective and collective goals through a best practices approach that is firmly rooted in differentiation and inclusion. As a dedicated father of two, youth pastor, mentor and more, Calvin King’s passion, perspective, professionalism and purpose have him positioned for unprecedented levels of success both now and well into the future.

Our Values

Our values are centered around providing All Students with Education on the highest level while developing their unique Artistry through a Mutual Respect approach that fosters Community.

Free-Lunch_est-2012

Be A Buddy Not A Bully

“Be A Buddy Not A Bully” is a multi media stage performance centered around Anti-Bullying techniques and aimed at inspiring today’s youth. “Be A Buddy Not A Bully” takes a refreshing interactive – approach to focusing on the coming of age issues experienced by most students attempting to balance the pressures of school, home and social life while on a roller coaster ride of self discovery. “Be A Buddy Not A Bully” is a must see for any student; be it a bully, a victim, or the all too common bystander.

The Cast

Calvin Evans

Calvin Evans

as
Billy the Bully

Calvin King

Calvin King

as
Buddy the Victim

SaLesha Mason

SaLesha Mason

as
Dean Smiley

Britni Moore

Britni Moore

as
K’Shelley the Bystander

What do We Do?

Be A Buddy Not A Bully (Customizable for PreK – 8th Grade Students)
“Be A Buddy Not A Bully” is a multi media stage performance centered on anti-bullying techniques and aimed at inspiring today’s youth. “Be A Buddy Not A Bully” takes a refreshing interactive approach to focusing on the coming of age issues experienced by most students attempting to balance the pressures of school, home and social life while on a roller coaster ride of self discovery. “BABNAB” is a must see for any student; be it a bully, a victim, or the all too common bystander.
Cyber Buddies (Ideal for Students 5th Grade & Up)
“Cyber Buddies” is a multi media stage performance, which aims to inspire youth and adolescents towards positive digital citizenship. “Cyber Buddies” explores the decisions young people make when it comes to social media, smart phones and other technical devices. What is more, “Cyber Buddies” also explores the lasting impact these decisions have on our students, their peers and society as a whole.
Quite The Character (Student Workshop Series)
Following (or preceding) a live stage performance schools can take advantage of our weekly follow up workshops entitled, “Quite The Character.” During this four-part series, taking place during the designated lunch hour, students will learn about conflict resolution, peer mentorship and restorative justice practices. Students completing this program will earn the title of “Free Lunch Academy Ambassadors.”
Books. Bullies. & Broadway. (After School Program)
School communities looking to take advantage of a comprehensive after school program that provides tutoring, mentoring and performing arts enrichment for students of all ages need should seriously consider Books. Bullies. & Broadway (3Bs). This one of a kind after school experience not only provides supplemental academic support and social emotional learning opportunities, but it also empowers students to become the star of the show by creating original stories of trials and triumphs. Through literacy enrichment, script writing basics, and public speaking and more students involved in the 3Bs program can expect to see gains in self-esteem and leadership capabilities as well as an increased demonstration of mutual respect and conflict resolution skills resulting in more purpose driven decision making. The 3Bs after school program culminates in an end of the term stage performance written, directed, produced and exclusively starring Books. Bullies. & Broadway participants.
Recess (Parent & Educators’ Workshops)
Free Lunch Academy offers a performance infused professional development presentation aimed at increasing one’s ability to provide students with on-going support and resources regarding bullying awareness, prevention and interventions.

The World Is Our Classroom

The Numbers on Bullying

  • “Peers who witness bullying may become fearful of being victimized and can be preoccupied with safeguarding their own status within the peer group.”
    — Salmivalli, 2010

  • Students who have been both bullied and have bullied others have been identified as demonstrating the worst outcomes in terms of psychosocial adjustment, as compared to either group alone.”
    — Kelly et al., 2015

  • “Children who chronically bully others also are more likely to exhibit other forms of aggression and engage in delinquent and criminal offenses.”
    — Renda, Vassallo, & Edwards, 2011; Ttofi et al., 2011

  • “Children subjected to bullying experience compromised academic achievement.”
    — Juvonen, Yueyan, & Espinoza, 2011

  • “Children subjected to bullying generally suffer high levels of depression and related internalizing problems such as social anxiety.”
    – Reijntjes et al., 2010

  • “Children cannot get a quality education if they don’t first feel safe at school.”
    – Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education

  •  “160,000 kids per day do not attend school for fear of being bullied.”
    -U.S. Dept. of Justice

     

  •  In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Education released the first federal uniform definition of bullying for research and surveillance. The core elements of the definition include: unwanted aggressive behavior; observed or perceived power imbalance; and repetition of behaviors or high likelihood of repetition.

  •  The majority of bullying still takes place at school; 1 in 3 U.S. students say they have been bullied at school, according to the DHHS.

  • More than one third of adolescents reporting bullying report bias-based school bullying (Russell, Sinclair, Poteat, and Koenig, 2012).

     

  • 81.9% of students who identify as LGBTQ were bullied in the last year based on their sexual orientation (National School Climate Survey, 2011).

     

  • 64% of students enrolled in weight-loss programs reported experiencing weight-based victimization (Puhl, Peterson, and Luedicke, 2012).

  •  70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools.

  •  70.4% of school staff have seen bullying. 62% witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41% witness bullying once a week or more.

  • 64 percent of children who were bullied did not report it; only 36 percent reported the bullying (Petrosina, Guckenburg, DeVoe, and Hanson, 2010).

     

  •  When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time.

  • School-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25% (McCallion and Feder, 2013).

     

Our Partners

Parkway-Ballroom

FLA-partner

TBTNS

DINAI

Upcoming Events & Shows

To Date Free Lunch Academy has partnered with over 150 Chicago Public Schools, Park Districts, Community Based Organizations, Faith Based Entities, National Brands and more to provide educational entertainment, social emotional artistic learning and creative employment opportunities to over 30,000 youth and young adults. Thank you for your support!


Black McDonald’s Operators’ Association X Free Lunch Academy are at it again!!!

In their respective and collective quests to educate, uplift and empower their community, these two power houses have joined forces once again to launch the highly anticipated Tolerance Is Greater Tour pt. 2 (Tolerance > Tour II). Twenty (20) select schools throughout the greater Chicagoland area will receive a potentially live changing stage experience for their students as the Free Lunch Academy cast helps bring the teaching of the late great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to life right before their eyes.

 

Following the performance, participating school communities will be given the opportunity to enter in The King & I Creativity Competition where students can submit poems, photos and/or posters aimed at detailing how they exemplify the various teaching of Dr. King in today’s contemporary setting.  Each school community will have two finalists selected.  Runners up will have their work of art displayed in their local participating BMOA location while the twenty first place winners will be honored at a pop up art exhibit which displays their winning submissions for the entire community to enjoy.

 

Black McDonald’s Operators’ Association X Free Lunch Academy = Tolerance > II

 

Combat Bullying Through Careers

Since the summer of 2015, Free Lunch Academy has offered inclusive, innovative, industry neutral workforce development programming services for youth, young adults and businesses who value creativity.  Through education, training, mentorship and more, Free Lunch Academy combines emerging industry best practices, subject matter expertise and real world applications within the Creative Economy and well beyond.  Free Lunch Academy has successfully partnered with One Summer Chicago, Illinois’ Department of Human Services (DHS) and most recently the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) to provide hundreds of at-risk youth with job, career and entrepreneurial skills and training centered around ethics, character development, leadership, purpose driven decision making and professional relationship building.  Through this innovative approach to workforce development, Free Lunch Academy has established a high functioning network of employees, employers and up and coming entrepreneurs that posses a healthy blend of morals, empathy and collaboration towards common short and long term goals.  To date, Free Lunch Academy Ambassadors boast a placement rating of over 95% with an 85% retention average after six months of employment. Free Lunch Academy’s network of businesses include small-medium through enterprise sized entities in the multimedia, entrainment, health and wellness, professional services, home improvement, manufacturing, logistics and hospitality industries. To witness Free Lunch Academy’s youth in action, please click on the video below and be sure to like, share and leave comments.

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Free Lunch Academy & Friends will Eliminate Bullying by OCTOBER 1, 2025 2719 Days 5 Hours 13 Minutes 15 Seconds