Brentwood schools expand free breakfast
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Call it a good morning in Brentwood, where school officials are expanding a plan to provide a complimentary breakfast to all students who want one in the district.
Eleven of 17 schools already provide the meal, and the remaining six are expected to offer it by late December or early January. The district then will be supplying more than 10,000 morning meals a day.
Elementary students are served at their desks. Those in the seventh grade and up can grab breakfast from a food cart or kiosk that includes such items as yogurt, graham cracker bites, muffins, whole-grain Nutri-Grain Bars, fresh fruit, juice and milk.
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The "Bring on Breakfast in Brentwood" program, with start-up costs funded by a nearly $500,000 grant, launched in February with two schools and expanded this fall.
Educators have noticed a difference.
"These kids are happier," Superintendent Joseph Bond said. "We have had kids coming to school hungry, and they are not hungry anymore. The kids appreciate it. The parents appreciate it, and the teachers appreciate it."
Seventy-five percent of the district's roughly 16,000 students qualify for a free or reduced school meal, according to Nancy Padrone, Brentwood food service director. Under the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program, those students qualify for reimbursement from federal and state funds. And that money makes the meal-service program self-sustaining.
Brentwood receives a $1.95 reimbursement per student for those on the free program, $1.70 for those on reduced-fee meals and 27 cents for those who do not qualify for either.
School officials said that while the federal money enabled them to provide breakfast, start-up costs to store, prepare and serve the meals were the roadblock.
Padrone and Bond applied for a grant to cover those costs, and received $440,000 from the Walmart Foundation and the American Association of School Administrators. That paved the way for purchase of supplies and equipment, such as adding walk-in refrigerators at some buildings and using a delivery system where food and beverages are kept at proper temperatures.
The Kellogg's company provided schools with some options to help the district meet its budget, according to company officials.
"A nutritious breakfast is a great way to start the day, and we're excited to have formed this partnership with the Brentwood school district," said Sara Day, Kellogg's Food Away From Home customer marketing manager for K-12 schools.
The district offers a 10-day menu cycle and the meals meet nutritional requirements.
Parent Kelly Castro said her 5-year-old son in kindergarten likes it. "He is always talking about it," she said.
Rebecca Louis, 12, a seventh-grader at East Middle School, said she enjoys breakfast from the food cart every day. Her favorites are applesauce and cornbread. "It's a good idea," she said.
Bond said teachers have noticed that more students are arriving at school on time.
"Kids in the past who have been absent or tardy are making sure to come in to get this breakfast," he said.