Sunday, 15 May 2016

Hastings Public Schools ensures students have breakfast option

Children at Hastings Public Schools have the option to eat breakfast every day of the school week at school.
The problem, according to district director of finance Jeff Schneider, is the logistics if every student chose to take advantage of the program.
“We’d have to start serving breakfast at 6:30 in the morning to get everyone served,” he told the Hastings Tribune.
Both Hastings and Adams Central public schools offer a breakfast program to all students, both those who pay full price and those participating in the free or reduced lunch program. And while all students have the option, only a small percentage of students in both districts partake.
A report recently released by the Food and Research Action Center ranked Nebraska 49th out of all states and the District of Columbia in participation of eligible children able to receive breakfast at school. The Nebraska School Breakfast Challenge was created in early2012 as a way to encourage an increase in the number of students served across the state. Schneider said the school district always encourages children to have breakfast every day, whether that be at school or home.
The district provides a hot breakfast at all school sites along with cereal, fruit, juice and milk. In January, a total of 13,299 breakfasts were served across the district with about 12,000 of those served to students who qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. Those students also pay a reduced rate or receive their breakfast for free.
The number of breakfasts served is about a quarter of the 53,000 lunches served during the same time period.
“What we’ve found is it just depends on what peoples’ schedules are,” Schneider said. “For some people, it works great for their kids to go eat breakfast at 7:45-7:50 a.m. For other people, it just doesn’t.”
Jennifer Pohlson, the principal at AC’s Juniata Elementary, said she agrees that for some students and parents the breakfast program works well.
There are many students who would have to eat breakfast very early to fit into their parents’ schedule and that would mean a longer wait until lunch. With the breakfast program, Pohlson said students can eat and not have to worry about being hungry in their morning classes.
“It’s crucial that they have breakfast, otherwise they’re sitting in class thinking about their stomachs growling and about being hungry instead of concentrating on what they’re supposed to be concentrating on,” she said. “We just need brain food to be able to learn.”
When the school is in the middle of state testing, Pohlson said they will even provide all students with small snacks to help ensure they are concentrating on their work and not their stomachs.
In the Adams Central district, food service manager Angie Nissen ensures there is cereal, yogurt, milk, juice and granola bars or other snacks available for the cold breakfast at each of the three elementary schools.
The middle and high school students have the option of a cold or hot breakfast at the high school where Nissen and the staff serve everything from breakfast pizzas to pancakes and sausage.
“We even do biscuits and gravy,” she said. “That’s one of their favorites.”
At the high school, Nissen said about 50 students take advantage of the breakfast each morning along with other students who purchase a la carte items, including bottled water and juice, cookies, fruit and granola bars.
“We start serving at 7:30-7:40 a.m. and we don’t usually close until the last bell rings,” she said. “Some kids will straggle in and get their water or whatever else they need before class.”
The number of students served is less in the elementary buildings, where 15-20 is the norm. At Hastings Public, Schneider said he’s glad that the number of students served isn’t huge. That’s because it could cause as scheduling nightmare.
Lunchtimes are staggered each day to get all students through the cafeteria in each of the buildings. If all students also ate breakfast, Schneider said students would have to start eating at 6:30 a.m. or sooner.
That’s not to say Schneider doesn’t think the district should serve breakfast. In fact, he thinks the numbers increase a bit in the winter time as students arrive to school early and decide it would be nicer to eat a warm breakfast in the building rather than waiting out in the cold for the bell to ring.
“And it’s there for those that want or need it,” Schneider said. “We don’t turn anybody away.”

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