Superintendent’s Column: BOE offers middle school students breakfast

Editor’s note: The following was written by Tabernacle schools Superintendent George J. Rafferty.

I was always told growing up, most often by my grandmother, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so eat your breakfast”. If you grew up listening to similar words of wisdom from the older wiser adults in your life, you won’t be surprised to learn schools across the country have found making breakfast part of their daily schedules improves student learning. That is why the Tabernacle Board of Education is making breakfast available for all students at the middle school for the 2013–2014 school year as part of a special pilot program. If the program proves successful, all students in grades Kindergarten through 8th will find breakfast available to them each morning starting in the 2014–2015 school year.

Educators now realize more than ever, eating a healthy breakfast each day can enhance student learning and boost a school’s climate in a positive manner. The research linking children’s nutrition to academic learning is numerous. One only has to refer to the Food Research and Action Center’s “Breakfast for Learning” fact sheet posted on our district website to learn the evidence shows: 1.) skipping breakfast and experiencing hunger impairs children’s ability to learn; 2.) eating breakfast helps improve children’s academic performance; 3.) breakfast improves children’s behavior and learning environments, and 4.) eating a healthy breakfast may protect against childhood obesity.

Olson Middle School Principal, Susan Grosser, thinks piloting the breakfast program with the older students is a good way to spread the word. “I have adjusted our arrival procedures and reassigned staff duties to help students who choose to eat breakfast each morning.”

Maria Baran, food services manager with Nutriserve, oversees the cafeteria services for the Tabernacle School District. Baran attended the middle school’s Back to School Night and set up a display of some of the menu options available to students for breakfast each day. The most popular breakfast choice so far among middle school students is when Baran sets up the yogurt parfait bar. Students make their way through the food line and get to select various toppings to place on top of their yogurt. The highest number of breakfasts served this year on any given day was just over 30. We hope that number reaches at least three times that amount by the middle of school year. Baran is noticing morning breakfast is becoming a wonderful way for students to socialize with their peers and teachers.

“I see more and more students eating breakfast each day so they can be with their friends. We started out with 1 student eating breakfast the first day of school to over 30 students a day now,” Baran said.

As a superintendent of schools there are many things I must oversee, but the new morning breakfast program at Olson has been a pleasure to see take off. Sitting down with students and getting their feedback has been a nice way to start my day as well. Students are now starting to tell me they like the idea of getting to school to have breakfast with their friends.

Everyone is optimistic that school breakfast will become a regular part of our student’s school day in Tabernacle. Laura Clapps, vice president of the Board of Education and chairperson of the board’s operations committee, has discussed the school breakfast option with her fellow board members Stephen Price and Julie Stewart as part of their monthly meetings. The board committee felt strongly it was a worthwhile effort to support in order to ensure students started their day successfully. Now the board of education will hope to see the program expand, if successful, and look for measureable success in our student’s achievement as well.