Revere Schools Director of Food and Nutrition Cheryl Cole said at last week’s School Committee meeting that while the number of students participating in the school breakfast program is increasing, more can be done to increase the number of students the program reaches.
According to Cole Revere, and 845 other schools in Massachusetts, are mandated to participate in the federally funded school breakfast program. The mandate requires school districts like Revere that draw attendance from areas with a high number of low-income children to offer breakfasts. Schools with these mandates typically have 40 percent or more of the lunches served to students free of charge or at a reduced price.
Cole said Revere has adopted a ‘second chance’ breakfast model that allows students at some schools to still get breakfast even after classes have started. “This has been made possible by serving breakfast in the classrooms at some Revere schools,” said Cole. Students who arrive late or may have missed the first round of breakfast can still get a chance to eat once school has started as part of the second chance breakfast model.
He added that this school year Revere will add holiday food themed events as well as special promotions to highlight the importance of proper nutrition and the importance of Revere’s school breakfast and lunch programs.
“We have found that through these special events and promotions it does boost breakfast and lunch participation by engaging the students,” said Cole.
Cole also said Revere has been using a series of displays and pictures of the food being served at schools to peak the interest of students and get more students participating in breakfast and/or lunch.
Revere School Superintendent Dianne Kelly said the second chance breakfast model at the Whalen and Hill Schools is a success that she hopes to emulate at other schools. However, she cautioned there may be restrictions.
“In those schools breakfast delivered in classrooms and the data shows a lot more kids are eating breakfast at the Whalen and Hill Schools,” said Kelly. “We are able to do this program in those schools due to grant funding and extra time at both schools. However, we want to work on improving participation and we are working on getting better in all cases in all schools.”
Kelly said that Cole has worked closely with all school principals in the city to come up with a plan that works best for each individual building. While this means the breakfast in the classroom model may not work in all schools it is something that could be explored.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” said Kelly. “When you think about it–kids need to be ready to learn in order to be able to learn. If they are coming to us and they are hungry and they haven’t had any kind of breakfast yet and we are pushing them right into a classroom they’re going to be distracted by hunger. If we can take five or six minutes to allow late arrivals to have something to eat, it would be better for the students. Instead of the, hurry up and get to class we should be asking have you had anything to eat yet. Allowing those five or six minutes can change the next five or six hours of a students day. It’s the right thing to make sure every student has something to eat before they start their day.”