Every student and staff member in Spokane Public Schools’ three lowest-income elementaries will be able to eat breakfast for free this school year.
“There is no doubt that students who have access to a healthy breakfast are going to be more successful in school. It’s hard to learn when you’re hungry,” said Nancy Stowell, district superintendent.
Although more than 90 percent of the students at the three schools – Holmes, Stevens and Logan – already qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, the pilot program is aimed at going a step further to make sure students eat before trying to learn.
Briona Rogers, 6, enjoyed cereal at Holmes Elementary School on Thursday, the last day of the free summer meals program. The little girl said she knows breakfast is important because it “makes me strong.”
Doug Wordell, the district’s director of nutrition services, said once school starts Sept. 6, “We are going to try to feed all the kids in the cafeteria, but we are also trying to figure out ways to get them breakfast if they show up with little or no time to eat.” That might mean some kids will be eating in class, he added.
The goal is to get breakfast participation up to at least 70 percent. At that level, the district breaks even between the subsidies it gets from the federal government to provide breakfast and the cost to serve the meal, Wordell said.
“It was pretty much a no-brainer,” he said of the decision to expand the breakfast program. “If we can do things that help support our schools and our neighborhoods, that’s a good thing.”
Employees will be offered free breakfast, too, because it sets a good example for the kids, Wordell said. “I know when we have adults eating and enjoying their food, more kids will eat.”
The breakfast menu offers multiple choices: typically cereal with a muffin or bread, or yogurt and bread. Depending on the day, there also could be French toast with sausage links, a cinnamon roll with a cheese stick, or the occasional omelet or breakfast pizza.
“If it helps get kids to school, if it helps them become better prepared to learn – it’s a touchdown,” Wordell said.