The phrase “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is taking on a literal meaning at many Shelby County Schools.
SCS is participating in a program called Breakfast in the Classroom for students who may otherwise not receive the proper nutrition at home. The program’s approach is unique because it moves breakfast from the lunchroom to the classroom.
Kristin Odommayes, cafeteria manager at Douglass Elementary School, says the new program not only provides more nutrients for students, but also teaches them to eat healthier. “They’re learning to pick the best food choices,” Odommayes said. “I want them to go home and be able to still know what’s healthy and what’s not.”
Food insecurity is a nationwide problem that can affect how well students learn. In 2014, 15.3 million children around the nation lived in households that struggled with hunger.
Audio by Daisha Dear
Although many school districts participate in federally funded school breakfast programs, eliminating hunger is a complex, community-wide problem.
“Some of the children come to school late, which is not their fault,” Odommayes said. “They never have time to get breakfast and actually enjoy it.”
Only half of low-income students who are eligible for free or reduced lunches actually eat at school.
“Some students are too embarrassed to be the only one out of their group that is standing in the breakfast line. Others think that eating breakfast isn’t the ‘cool’ thing to do.” —Kristin Odommayes
Eating breakfast not only helps poverty-stricken students perform better academically, but also increases positive health and behavior as well. Children who eat breakfast at school do better on standardize tests than those who don’t or those who eat breakfast at home. Breakfast also improves students’ comprehension, concentration, alertness, memory, and learning.
“Some students are too embarrassed to be the only one out of their group that is standing in the breakfast line,” said Odommayes.“Others think that eating breakfast isn’t the cool thing to do. That is why the Breakfast in the Classroom program provides for every student, not just those that are from low-income households.”
Frank Cook, director of nutrition services for Shelby County Schools, said that the Breakfast in the Classroom program is only one of many programs that SCS has created to cater to their students’ nutritional needs.
“In addition to the breakfast and lunch program, we also do an afters-chool supper snack program, which is for those kids in extracurricular activities,” Cook said.
Shelby County Services also provides a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for about 70 elementary schools and morning and afternoon snacks for children in the Head Start Program. Another beneficial program, the Mid-South Food Bank’s Food for Kid’s Backpack Program, provides 1,500 children in the Mid-South area with nutritious foods for the weekend. Backpack meals are distributed every Friday at 18 schools and other child-centered locations.
Aisha Diallo also contributed to this story.