Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
Expanded availability, accessibility, and participation in breakfast at school is one of the best ways to support the health and academic potential of children, particularly low-income children. To ensure that Macon County students are afforded every opportunity at success, this fall every child in the county will receive free breakfast, regardless of income. The free breakfast program will be available at all 11 county schools and will provide a free, nutritious meal in the mornings.
“Making sure our students have access to a nutritious meal isn’t just important to me as a dietician,” said Kim Terrell Nutrition Director for Macon County Schools. “As a mother of three, I know how hectic mornings can be and just getting the kids out the door on time can be difficult enough. Offering free breakfasts in our schools will hopefully help families and make mornings a little easier.”
With a new school schedule being implemented that adds 20 minutes to each day, students at Franklin High School will start their day at 8 am rather than 8:20 and breakfast will be shortened. Terrell said not only will breakfast be free, but to help with that transition, the breakfast delivery method will be made easier.
“We will hear Friday whether or not we will be receiving a grant from Fuel UP to Play 60 which will provide funds to purchase a breakfast cart for Franklin High School,” said Terrell. “The cart will have grab-and-go breakfast options for students.”
Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by National Dairy Council and the NFL, in collaboration with the USDA, to help encourage today’s youth to lead healthier lives.
A $5,000 grant from the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association was used to purchase insulated coolers and a breakfast cart to help the breakfast delivery process easier. At the elementary schools, breakfast will be delivered to the classroom.
“So many studies show that students who have a healthy breakfast perform better in schools,” said Terrell. “Through this program, every student at every school will be able to have that option.”
According to the Food Research and Action Center, children who eat breakfast at school perform better on standardized test than those who skip breakfast or eat breakfast at home. Providing breakfast to students at school improves their concentration, alertness, comprehension, memory, and learning.
The program is funded through federal dollars that are reimbursed based on participation rates. According to Terrell, 65 to 70 percent of students in the district will need to take advantage of the free breakfast in order for the program to fund itself. Currently, only about 30 percent of students in the district eat breakfast at school.
Last year was the first year that both Union Academy and East Franklin Elementary School offered both free breakfast and free lunch to all students through the Community Eligibility Program which will continue in the fall. Before free breakfast was offered at those schools, about 45 percent of students ate breakfast at school. With the free breakfast options, that percentage of students eating breakfast at school increased to 90 percent.