Janesville68.9°

Local districts to start breakfast programs

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Kayla Bunge
August 18, 2010
— Growling stomachs often punctuate math and reading lessons in the Milton schools.

Although some students have a chance to slurp down a bowl of cereal or munch on an apple before school, some are stuck waiting until lunch to get a nutritious meal.


The Milton School District is about the change that.


The district has received a $41,302 grant to start a school breakfast program at three of its eight schools.


“It’s hard to learn on an empty stomach,” said Jim Degan, food service director. “My concern is that children get a good breakfast. They can get it at home or on the way to school, but some don’t have the ability to get it anywhere. We want to make sure they have a level playing field.”


The district will use its grant to implement a breakfast program at Northside Intermediate School, Milton Middle School and Milton High School starting this fall, he said.


The district last school year launched a pilot program at the middle school to determine whether a program would be used and would break even or make money, Degan said.


The program was successful. An average of about 85 students a day ate breakfast, and the district was convinced it could offer a similar program at other schools, he said.


The district plans to offer students 8 ounces of milk, 4 ounces of 100 percent fruit juice and a choice of two other breakfast items, such as bagels, cereal bars, yogurt and string cheese, Degan said.


The meal will cost $1 for most students and will cost nothing for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, he said. The program also will be open to staff members, he said.


The district plans to offer free breakfast to all students five times during the school year to let them try the program and get in the habit of eating a good breakfast, Degan said. It also plans to offer free breakfast to parents once during the year so they can learn about the program, he said.


Two other local school districts also have received grants to start breakfast programs in their schools.


-- The Elkhorn School District got $8,921 to offer a breakfast program at Westside Elementary School.


“I knew there was a need for the kids to have something, so I started the Wisconsin Morning Milk Program, and that allows our free or reduced (lunch) students to get their snack milk for free,” said Ellen Leasure, food service supervisor. “But this will expand on it and get all of our students a good meal.”


The district already offers programs at Jackson Elementary School and Elkhorn Middle School, but officials saw free and reduced-price lunch numbers climbing elsewhere and decided it was necessary to extend a program to another school, she said.


The district last school year offered a two-week trial at the school to test the program and introduce students and their families to the idea of breakfast at school, Leasure said.


The trial was well used—about 90 percent of students took advantage of the free meal each day—and the district believed it could support a program at the school, she said.


The district plans to offer students milk, 100 percent fruit juice or fresh fruit, string cheese or yogurt and whole-grain items in their classrooms, Leasure said.


The meal will cost $1.05 for most students and will cost nothing for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, she said. The program also will be open to staff members and other adults, she said.


-- The Fontana School District got $11,955 to implement a breakfast program at the school, which houses 4-year-old kindergarten through eighth grade.


“I’m a special education teacher, and I tend to deal with a lot kids from the lower socioeconomic class, and I noticed that a lot of my kids were going without breakfast,” said Brenda Johansen, a special education teacher. “I spent a lot of time feeding them breakfast.


“I think it (breakfast) makes a difference in their attention and in their test scores. We know that if you haven’t eaten, then you don’t perform as well (in school).”


The district surveyed students and their families to determine whether they would take advantage of breakfast served during school hours, she said.


“We found a lot who were interested and weren’t getting breakfast before school,” Johansen said. “About half of our families said they would use it at least occasionally.”


The district plans to offer students milk, fruit juice or fresh fruit, cheese and whole-grain items in their classrooms during the usual morning snack time, she said.


The meal will cost $1.40 for most students, 25 cents for students who qualify for reduced-price lunch and nothing for students who qualify for free lunch, Johansen said.


The district plans to offer free breakfast to all students a couple times during the first few weeks of school to let them try the program, she said. It also plans to give teachers coupons for free breakfasts that they can give to students as rewards, she said.


The districts can use the grant money to buy equipment as well as pay for recurring costs, such as labor, training and outreach, and other costs associated with a school breakfast program, according to a press release from the state Department of Public Instruction.


“Schools need to be doing all they can to ensure that every child graduates with the knowledge and skills needed for success in the workforce or as they pursue further education,” State Superintendent Tony Evers said in the press release.


“A hungry child cannot concentrate on learning, and this funding helps us provide additional resources some children may need in order to do well in school.”



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