DOBSON — The Surry County Schools Child Nutrition Department is expanding last year’s free Universal Breakfast program from seven elementary schools and a middle school to all of its elementary schools and continue the program at Meadowview Middle School.
According to Nutrition Department Director Sherri Parks, the elementary schools participating last year were Copeland, Dobson, Flat Rock, Rockford, Franklin and Mountain Park.
“We saw how beneficial this program was for the students and we thought, why not take it to all of our elementary schools,” said Parks. She said universal breakfast refers to a school program offering breakfast at no charge to all students, regardless of income.
Parks said studies have shown children who eat breakfast perform better in school with less tardiness and better behavior and improved test grades.
“Studies have found this program also helps increase attendance rates,” Parks said. “If breakfast is a family activity we do not want to take away from family time but we feel it’s important to have this program in place for those interested in taking advantage of the opportunity. Mornings are crazy for moms and dads. Parents can feel good about their child getting a nutritious breakfast at school even if they don’t have time to fix them one.”
She indicated providing breakfast at no charge to all students helps remove the stigma of participation in school breakfast based on free and reduced rates. She said all school breakfasts meet USDA requirements for balanced nutrition appropriate for growing children and adolescents. The menu includes whole grain items, protein, fruit, 100 percent juice and low fat or fat free milk.
“It will take a tremendous amount of teamwork to make this successful,” said Parks. “We are proud about this and our staff is very excited about the program. We’ll look at each school and customize what meets their needs.” She explained some will be ‘hybrid’ programs where meals will be brought into classrooms, served in the traditional manner in a cafeteria and an option for students to pick up their breakfast in the hallways and take it to class with them.
Parks also said the Second Chance Breakfast Program will be used in all three high schools in the county. This programs typically serves breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and a second breakfast at 9:25 a.m. during the school’s second morning break. She said the State Department of Education has it has found teaching and breakfast can be done at the same time without either activity being interfering with the other.
She said Child Nutrition has also partnered with organizations including No Kid Hungry NC, Share Our Strength and the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association (SUDIA) to make the expansion possible. Parks said these groups provide educational resources, grant funding and promotional tools so schools can reach their goals. The association, for instance, recently awarded the county department an $8,000 grand for purchasing equipment.
“Expanding school breakfast is a top priority (for Child Nutrition) and we are delighted that our district is so supportive of these efforts. We are looking forward to providing a valuable service to families and helping even more students prepare for academic success,” Parks said.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.