Free breakfast program highlights Child Health Week at OC schools

Free breakfast program highlights Child Health Week at OC schools

Posted: Monday, October 4, 2010 9:09 pm

Sausage biscuits and Pop Tarts™ were among the breakfast items on the cart going from classroom to classroom on a recent weekday morning at Hillcrest Elementary School in Troy.
The Breakfast in the Classroom program at Hillcrest is part of the new system-wide free breakfast program at all Obion County Schools.
Every child, regardless of income, now has the option for free breakfast. Hillcrest is the only school actually serving food in the classroom, though. All other Obion County schools are still offering the breakfast in the cafeterias.
Free breakfast has been offered for many years in cafeterias in Obion County schools but was only an option for students from low-income backgrounds. About 53 percent of all Obion County’s students actually qualify for free or reduced-priced meals, based on household incomes, yet last year only about 38 percent of all student enrolled took advantage of the free breakfast.
Obion County supervisor of food service Judy Denman said so far this year the response has been positive, with an average of 65 percent of all students taking part in the free breakfast.
 “We’re giving them the fuel they need to kick start their day,” Ms. Denman said.
“Every school offers a hot choice such as sausage and biscuit, breakfast burrito or breakfast pizza. There is also a basic choice like cereal bars, Pop Tarts, yogurt or fruit and they are also offered milk or juice,” she explained.
Jonathan Lewis’s son, Noah, just started kindergarten at Hillcrest. He thinks the program is very beneficial.
“Even though we always feed our son at home, he still eats the breakfast at school. These kids are getting a chance to have the most essential meal of the day and that is what’s important,” he said.
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen recently said in an open letter on the Tennessee First to the Top website that “Tennessee is raising the bar for student achievement with higher academic standards in the classroom. These new higher standards will help us make sure students are ready for college or career when they graduate high school.”
With those higher standards and tougher tests on the way, Obion County Director of Schools David Huss said he thinks the free breakfast for all is a step in the right direction.
“Children are more ready to learn when they are not hungry and statistics show breakfast is the most often skipped meal of the day,” he said.
Huss said teachers system-wide report a decrease in the number of students paying a visit to the school nurse because of headache and stomach ache associated with morning hunger.
Obion County and Weakley County schools are both piloting the free breakfast program this year. The free breakfast program is administered under the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Program. Mrs. Denman said so long as at least 50 percent of students keep participating, federal reimbursements will continue to cover the costs of offering free breakfast to everyone.
According to the USDA, studies show students who eat school breakfast:
• increase math and reading scores;
• improve their speed and memory in cognitive tests;
• perform better on standardized tests than those who don’t eat breakfast.
Schools that provide universal breakfast report decreases in discipline and psychological problems, fewer visits to school nurses, less tardiness, increases in student attentiveness and attendance and generally improved learning environments, according to the USDA.
Tammy Stanford is a working single mom who also attends college part time. Her daughter attends Obion Central. She said the mornings are very rushed and money is always tight.
“I am especially appreciative of a program that offers breakfast at school so that my child may perform better in the classroom,” she said.
Research also shows that children who skip breakfast rarely make up for missed nutrients later in the day.
This week — Oct. 4-10 — is Child Health Week in Tennessee. Many efforts are in place across Tennessee to promote the health of the state’s children. For more information, visit online at www.tennesseeanytime.org/gov/child-health/.
For more details on the USDA’s free breakfast program, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/breakfast.
Published in The Messenger 10.04.10

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