Kindergartner Kimora Estrada said her favorite part of her school lunch is “when I eat pineapple.”
In fact, there was a large scoop of pineapple chunks on her tray Wednesday. At another table, some kindergartners were trying kiwis for the first time.
For most half-day kindergarten students around the area, lunch isn’t something they usually have at school.
But at Broadway Elementary School in the Central Valley School District, half-day kindergartners are getting lunch. In Estrada’s case, she and her classmates from her morning kindergarten class head to the cafeteria after class.
The school is testing out kindergarten lunch because teachers noticed afternoon students often arrived at school hoping for a snack. Some of them hadn’t eaten anything by the time they got to class.
At Broadway, 72 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunches, an indicator of poverty in the neighborhood.
Principal Lori Johnson said getting lunch for kindergartners took some staffing changes and some shifts in transportation, but other than that, it has been a no-cost way to boost the students’ energy in the classroom.
“It’s going great,” Johnson said. “It’s been awesome having them fed.”
Kindergarten teacher Carolyn Hughes agrees.
“The afternoon kids have more energy,” she said. “They aren’t as lethargic.”
Tim Nootenboom executive director of elementary teaching and learning, said the district was able to implement the test program because it used little to no new funds. He said part of teaching is helping the students feel healthy and safe when they are at school.
“When their basic needs are met, we can take them further,” he said.
Hughes said kindergartners don’t get grades just yet, but they are assessed as to whether they are meeting standards. This year in her afternoon class, more students are at standard.
“They are doing better,” she said. “They are much more on task.”