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A new breakfast in the classroom program -- piloted by Siloam Springs' three elementary schools during the last few weeks of school -- aims to make sure students get the most important meal of the day.

The school district plans to bring the program back full-time at Northside, Southside and Allen Elementary Schools when school resumes in the fall, according to Jason Carter, director of child nutrition.

The district received a $50,000 grant from Walmart Foundation for equipment and supplies to start up the program and make it self-sustaining, Carter said. Most school districts that have breakfast in the classroom offer free breakfasts to all students. Siloam Springs is one of only two districts the foundation has funded that offer three meal payment options -- free, reduced price and fully paid, he said.

"They really wanted our data as to how does it work, what's your participation look like, what are the major issues you run into and that kind of stuff," Carter said.

There are many reasons that students may not get to eat breakfast in the morning, he said. When breakfast was held before school started, some students didn't get to school in time to eat. Other students may not be hungry first thing in the morning or may eat very early before they get on the school bus around 6 a.m. and not have another opportunity to eat until lunch, he said.

"There's a bunch of different reasons and we're not necessarily trying to identify them all, we're just trying to make sure the kids have another opportunity to get something to eat if they want something to eat," Carter said.

When students arrive in the morning they line up outside of the classrooms and read or sit quietly while they wait for school to begin, depending on the building. After they are dismissed to go to class, students who want breakfast stop by a kiosk and pick up a bagged meal then make their way to their classrooms where they have a family-style meal.

Eating together in the classroom gives students and teachers a chance to bond, and start their day in a calm and positive way, Carter said.

"Whether the kids are getting a breakfast or not, it's improving the learning environment for all the kids and it's improving the camaraderie in the classroom, he said.

During the test period, the new format increased breakfast participation from 35 percent to 80 percent, although Carter said he expects the number to level off to around 60 percent once the novelty wears off.

Teachers are reporting that students are showing better concentration in the classroom, especially as lunch approaches, he said.

Just like adults, students get cranky and have a hard time concentrating in school when they are hungry, according to Sarah Jones, director of Bright Futures Siloam Springs and a parent of students in the district.

"Breakfast is the same as everything else with hunger," she said. "If you're hungry, you're not thinking about anything except for 'I'm hungry, when am I going to get to eat?'"

Jones said her daughter often doesn't feel hungry first thing in the morning, so the new program has encouraged her to eat breakfast.

"She's getting to eat a little later when she's actually ready to eat," she said.

Another advantage of the new program is that it teaches students the soft skills of how to eat together in a family-style setting, she said.

"The other thing I love is they're eating together as a class," Jones said. "They're not competing with noise in the cafeteria, it's calm, they are able to have that time with their teacher and with their classmates eating together at the beginning of the day."

The school has made an effort to communicate to parents that if their child pays full or reduced price for lunches, they may see their lunch bills go up if the child starts eating breakfast. Carter said that so far feedback from teachers and parents about the new program has been overwhelmingly positive.

In addition to the breakfast in the classroom program, Siloam Springs School District also offers a second breakfast option at the intermediate and high school. Students have a chance to stop by and pick up a meal later in the morning in case they don't have time for breakfast or don't feel like breakfast first thing in the morning.

General News on 05/30/2018

Print Headline: Elementary schools pilot breakfast in the classroom

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