The lumps were quickly smoothed out of the school breakfast program at Pomona Elementary School in Montrose last year. Shortly after offering all 411 students breakfast each day in their first class, many teachers, leaders and custodians who had their doubts were converts.
The biggest reason was better student behavior.
“We had fewer students coming to the office for misbehaving in the morning because they have food in their bellies,” Principal Joe Simo said. “They are less hungry and more engaged.”
The logistics worked themselves out as well. Kindergarten teachers poked straws through the foil lids on juice containers to cut down on spills. Custodians double bagged the trash cans in the classrooms so teachers could pull out the inner bag of breakfast trash and leave in the hall for pick up. Not wanting to lose a precious minute of instruction time, teachers modified first-period lessons to focus on daily language instruction while the kids ate.
A big part of the success is the all-student access. There’s no stigma attached because no one knows whose food is covered by a grant and whose food is paid for by a federal low-income feeding program.
For parent Kaye Hotsenpillar, breakfast offered to her second-grader in the classroom was a relief. Breakfast at school is now part of her daughter’s normal routine. Grace isn’t famished by the time lunch comes.
The school has a new focus on improving nutrition by making meals from scratch and offering a greater variety of foods, Simo said. The sausage biscuit is popular, but so are bagels with fruit, cereals with milk and hard boiled eggs and toast. There’s even a homemade breakfast bar that doesn’t look too appealing to Simo, but the kids scarf it up. The only thing the school doesn’t serve is pancakes and syrup after learning from experience that it doesn’t go over well in the carpeted classrooms.
With just a bit of working out the kinks, the service is now a part of the school culture.
“Certain things you have to make time for in your school day,” Simo said. “Our focus is definitely academics, but you have to work on the whole student. Improving nutrition and setting time aside for that is important. We’ve been able to have that by having breakfast in the classroom.”
Written and provided by Tara Manthey, director of communications for the Colorado Children’s Campaign.