RACINE — With a goal of no student going hungry, Southern Local is now bringing breakfast into its classrooms.
On Wednesday, representatives from several agencies joined school officials for the official launch of the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) Grant.
Southern Local School District students will benefit from a nutritious morning meal throughout the school year due to the grant funded by Walmart and awarded by the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom. Southern was awarded $47,909.16 in grant funding for the three-year cycle in November.
The event was held in conjunction with National School Breakfast week, which ran this week March 5-9.
Sonja Hill from the Children’s Hunger Alliance explained that when the program is fully implemented in the fall students in grades Pre-K to 2 will have direct delivery of breakfast to their classrooms, allowing the students to eat together in the room as a small group while beginning their school day.
For grades 3-8 students will go through the cafeteria breakfast line and take the food back to their homerooms.
At the high school level, carts will be set up in the halls for students to take the breakfast with them into the classroom.
Ann Ohlinger, high school teacher and Southern Local Education Association President, explained that the students are more likely to eat breakfast with a small group of their peers versus in a large group setting in the gym.
Supt. Tony Deem, Board of Education President Denny Evans and Ohlinger emphasized the importance of students going to class and not being hungry.
Evans noted the importance of feeding students healthy meals at school as some may go without food on evenings and weekends when they are not at school.
The breakfast menu allows the students to choose options, including mini pancakes, sausage biscuits, yogurt and juices, among others.
Pre-K-6th grade Principal Tricia McNickle said that the breakfast in the classrooms has been going well, allowing for students who may arrive late to still eat breakfast with their classmates, as well as not missing out on instruction time.
Southern was selected for the grant based on the number of students that qualify for free or reduced priced meals, average daily participation in the school breakfast program, and district and school-level support. Southern currently offers free Breakfast to all students, but launched the campaign in the Kindergarten and Pre-School on March 7. Other grade levels will be implemented in the fall. Next year, Southern will see both its elementary and high school participating in the program, making it a school-wide Pre-K to grade 12 endeavor.
In September 2017, the grant funding was introduced to Southern Superintendent Tony Deem and Food Service Director Scott Wolfe by Sonja Hill, SSN Director, for the Children’s Hunger Alliance in Ohio. Hill and Wolfe worked together on the grant application and submitted it to the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom directors. Hill met with administration, cooks and support staff along with Ohlinger prior to submitting the application. OEA is one of the sponsors of the grant. School principals McNickle and Daniel Otto were important factors in securing the grant.
Once the program is launched school-wide, more than 740 students at Southern will participate in the free breakfast in the classroom program, allowing them to reap the nutritional and academic benefits associated with a morning meal.
Southern was selected to participate in the fourth phase of the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom program, which is a joint initiative from the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation (NAESPF), the School Nutrition Foundation (SNF), and The NEA Foundation – collectively known as the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom. The Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom also are working in conjunction with Southern administration and stakeholders.
The program reworks how school breakfast is delivered by offering it to all students at no charge and moving it from the cafeteria to the classroom in an effort to improve participation in the federally-funded School Breakfast Program and boost learning and health.
“Studies show that students who eat breakfast at school also have a better attendance rate and tend to behave better,” said Scott Wolfe Food Service Director, at Southern. “We’re excited to work with the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom to make a morning meal available to all students in the district. Hunger is an obstacle to educating our youth that we hope our district can overcome.”
While most U.S. schools offer meal programs, many students do not participate in cafeteria-based school breakfast programs because of bus schedules, late arrivals to school, pressure to go directly to class or reluctance to be labeled as “low income.” In fact, before the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom initiative launched at Southern, data showed 50 percent of students were qualified for free and reduced-price meals, yet only 30-some percent were eating the breakfast available to them.
The Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom selected districts from ten states to participate in the program based on need and potential for success. The other states participating in the program are: Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.
As more schools adopt the Breakfast in the Classroom approach, the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom anticipate participation in the federally-funded School Breakfast Program will increase, helping reduce hunger and improve educational achievement nationwide.
Additional school districts in Ohio still have the opportunity to apply for grant funds from Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom. To find out more information and how to apply, visit www.BreakfastintheClassroom.org.
A portion of the information provided by Southern Local.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.