Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for students. Research has shown that eating breakfast can improve concentration, mood, and focus. However, many students still go to school without eating breakfast.
All schools in USD 475 have breakfast available for students, but very few students make it to school early enough to take advantage of the breakfast offered, or they just aren’t hungry when they arrive.
Shelly Gunderson is the Director of Child Nutrition for USD 475. Her job is to ensure students have the proper nutrition so that they can take full advantage of the educational opportunities that USD 475 provides. It is not an easy task, especially when students are not eating breakfast.
Shelly came up with an innovative solution, and through the No Child Hungry grant, she was able to implement that solution for middle school students this year. The solution was to offer students a second chance at breakfast.
On January 13th, Junction City Middle School and Fort Riley Middle School opened grab-and-go breakfast carts. These carts are stationed in busy hallway areas, twice each morning, between classes. The carts are filled with items like whole-grain muffins, whole-grain bagel bars, whole-grain nutrition bars, apple sauce, fruit cups, donuts, orange juice, apple juice, and milk.
When the bell rings at 9:53 a.m. at JCMS, almost 200 7th and 8th grade students line up at the cart, spanning both directions of the hallway. Staff is stationed at each end of the cart with a computer and a keypad, so that students can punch in their cafeteria account numbers, grab food from the cart, then head off to class. On Tuesday, February 11th, JCMS served 180 students in under 7 minutes – students that would otherwise not eat a breakfast. It is an impressive model of efficiency and organization.
The hope, Shelly says, is that students will have improved performance in class, exhibit better behavior, and have fewer visits to the nurse. Her plan may already be working.
Mrs. Kristi Shebert, school nurse at JCMS, is already noticing improvements in students. She says she has already noticed that students seem more alert and attentive. “Students seem more ready to learn. They are less sluggish and fatigued when I talk to them,” she says.
Mrs. Shebert also says she has noticed that fewer students are coming to her office complaining of hunger. “We used to give them some crackers to hold them over until lunch, because that is all we had. I am noticing that we are doing that much less often now.”
Prior to the Second Chance Breakfast program, USD 475 middle schools only served breakfast to approximately 200 students a day, on average. On February 11th, JCMS served breakfast to 467 students, between the regular breakfast service and the breakfast carts. That number represents more than half of the students at JCMS.
Shelly hopes to continue and possibly expand the program moving forward. She knows that proper nutrition is key to successful students, and USD 475 is committed to providing students with every opportunity to achieve success.