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How are schools’ new breakfasts working out?

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Greg Peck
March 25, 2013

My wife, Cheryl, and I joined fellow parishioners from St. John Vianney and other churches that volunteered at Roosevelt and Adams elementary schools at a “thank you” breakfast Friday at Roosevelt. The two principals led the program and thanked us for our many years of volunteer service. On Jan. 28, the district switched all breakfasts to a federally funded program and disbanded the traditional “breakfast clubs” led by volunteers.

Oh, volunteers are still welcome to help, we’ve been assured. But the change removed the camaraderie and sense of running the show—from setup to cleanup. I don’t know that any of my fellow St. John Vianney volunteers have taken up the schools on that offer.

The “thank you” breakfast included a short video with smiling faces and words of appreciation from the kids. I served the breakfast club at Roosevelt for about 20 years, and I wasn’t the only person watching the video with tears welling in my eyes.

Afterward, a bunch of us from St. John Vianney popped in on the kids downstairs to see just how the new breakfast program is going. One little girl quickly greeted me with a hug. Many kids told us they missed us, and several said they miss “real breakfasts” with toast and cereal. Instead, they get prepackaged breakfast bars, cheese sticks, boiled eggs and fruit juice and milk choices. The offerings vary, but the lunch lady requires them to select at least three of the four options each day; if they don’t want to eat one of them, they can leave it on a tray. Other kids who are still hungry after eating their choices can then grab some of these “leftovers.” Those items that aren’t consumed get offered during midmorning snack breaks.

The lunch lady had a computer that quickly scanned in each child who came to eat. She told us that some kids are knocking on the doors when she opens at 7:30 each day. One staffer assists from 7:50 to 8 and another from 8 to 8:10.

Several boys were playing games that the school bought because the kids wanted some; I always brought a few games along when I served with St. John Vianney.

Three girls were wiping tables as we departed.

We miss the kids, but as my morning workload at The Gazette expanded in recent years, I found it more and more difficult to make the breakfast club when our church served it. If I were retired, I’m sure I could find some way to volunteer in a classroom. I didn’t see a pressing need for adult volunteers at the breakfast program. Still, I’d like to stop in and visit the children perhaps once a month or so, but I’m not sure that would be often enough to nurture the relationships we volunteers have built with them. Eventually, I imagine, the kids would look at me and wonder who the stranger is.

Like in so many aspects of life, all good things must come to an end.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook



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