Back to School: Let the Good Times Roll

You may find this hard to believe, but school is already in session in many schools across the state of Colorado. A new school year brings different federal child nutrition programs to the front lines while summer programs are put on the back burner. During this transition every year, it is difficult to keep the various programs separate, so bear with me as the blogs jump from program to program over the next couple weeks.

Today I had the pleasure of participating in not only my first school breakfast, but Elkhart Elementary’s first school breakfast of the year. Aurora Public Schools began today for most elementary and middle school as well as the highschool freshmen class. As part of the new school year, Superintendent John Barry rode the school bus to Elkhart Elementary, ate breakfast with a second grade classroom and then held a press conference in the new Health Sciences Academy at Aurora Central High School.

Children who do not eat breakfast have lower blood sugar in the morning and, consequently, a harder time concentrating on school work than those children who do eat breakfast. When breakfast is served in the classroom to all students, there is higher participation rates than when it is served the traditional school cafeteria way. Universal school breakfast has also been shown to decrease the number of school nurse visits from students. Hunger Free Colorado has been working on increasing participation in the school breakfast program across the State of Colorado.

Elkhart Elementary was chosen for the visit (by the district, not us) because it is one of the three schools which piloted the universal breakfast in the classroom this past April. This year, twelve schools are rolling out the program and Aurora Public Schools hopes to include all schools in the program within the next couple years.

Universal breakfast in the classroom is a program in which breakfast is served free to all students in classrooms. Students eat during the first few minutes of school and no students are asked to pay for the meal. This may seem like a high budget expense for economically stressed school districts, but the majority of the cost is reimbursed by the federal school breakfast program. Students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch automatically qualify for the same benefits for breakfast. In Colorado, schools are reimbursed from the state to cover the difference for reduced-price breakfasts, so those children do not have to pay anything. Schools in which 40% or more of lunches served are free or reduced-price lunch receive an extra reimbursement for each free student breakfast served.

It was apparent today in Teri Potter and Meghan Pellegrino’s shared classroom that they know how to efficiently use classtime. When students came in, there was a paper to do at their seats with breakfast. The teachers helped children warm into the writing exercise and then encouraged them to eat and think/write/draw. Most of the children did not immediately eat, but rather, began their assignment. Then, slowly, they watched their neighbors peel bananas, pry open the milk and strip the packaging of the string cheese and cereal bar. By clean-up time, all the children had completed their work and begun their breakfast. This was a large breakfast for some, so they packed their bananas or cereal bars into their backpacks for snacks during rececess or after school. Breakfast and writing was all of twenty minutes, so it is well worth the time put in. On future days, I can see breakfast and clean-up running quicker and smoother as students learn the ropes of their new classroom and shed some of their first-day meekness.

Thank you for opening your classroom to breakfast and all of the district and Hunger Free Visitors today, Mrs. Potter and Mrs. Pellegrino.

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