One of the new initiatives and investments beginning this school year at the Montclair School District is a Breakfast Program at all schools.
Before this year, the District operated a compliance-driven school breakfast program, offering a morning meal where required by law. Last year, 1,457 students qualified for free or reduced-price meals in the district, 22% of the overall student population.
Now all Montclair Public School children can get breakfast at school.
Studies show that many children go to school without breakfast. They also show that children who have eaten a nutritious breakfast are better behaved at school, have longer attention spans, score higher on tests, and are more interested in the educational program.
There’s no question that breakfast is important, but how will this program affect the budget?
Chief Operating Officer, Brian Fleischer, explained.
“We believe the expansion of breakfast to the three schools that didn’t previously serve breakfast (Edgemont, Bradford, Northeast) will pay for itself in federal meal reimbursements.”
The State of New Jersey’s Department of Agriculture website explains how Breakfast Programs may be reimbursed.
At the three middle schools and the high school, some funding will likely be needed to expand the program. Renaissance Middle School already has a breakfast in the classroom. MHS, Mt. Hebron and Glenfield currently offer breakfast in the cafeteria before the late bell.
“We’re taking a closer look at the idea of grab-and-go breakfast kiosks at Mt. Hebron, Glenfield and MHS that might require a small investment to set up, but we’re not there yet, ” says Fleischer.
Schools Superintendent, Dr. Penny MacCormack, told Barista Kids that how the Breakfast Program will work at each school will be based on how the principals want to implement it. We spoke to several elementary school principals to learn more.
Nishuane School’s principal, Jill McLaughlin says Nishuane School has been offering breakfast in the cafeteria for years.
“Breakfast is available for all students, regardless of meal-eligibility status. Parents have money in their food service account for their children if they like them to have the breakfast unless they are free-eligible, ” says McLaughlin.
Breakfast at Bradford is new this year. Principal Naomi Kirkman says the program at Bradford will be “grab and go” (in a brown bag) and will be picked up by students after the first bell, which they can bring back to class to eat.
“We never used to offer breakfast as an option, so this is new. I think it will be an added boost for students who may not eat breakfast at home (for a variety of reasons). I think parents will agree that it is a convenient and nutritious option. At Bradford, we see quite a few students who come to school and tell us “I didn’t eat breakfast.” All the research points to the fact that a eating a healthy breakfast every day contributes to academic success,” says Kirkman.
Edgemont School’s principal Cheryl Hopper says they are very excited about having a breakfast program at Edgemont.
“Last year, through the support of Edgemont’s School Action Team and PTA, we implemented daily breakfast (cheerios and milk) in the Kindergarten. Now, to have the opportunity to offer the breakfast option to every student in the school is really a dream come true! I expect it will be a very popular program at our school. “