Breakfast essential to better learning: Schools begin free morning menu offerings

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It was breakfast on wheels Wednesday at Hunt High School as child nutritionists Phyllis Horne and Stanley Best pushed a food-filled cart down the hall so students could make a quick grab of breakfast items between classes.

Wilson County Schools began serving free breakfasts at three traditional high schools and one middle school on Monday.

The goal is for students to begin their school day without skipping breakfast, long considered the most important meal of the day.

Student Carson Meacomes grabbed cinnamon crunches and apple juice.

“It’s pretty good because by this time of the day I’m still hungry,” Carson said.

Carson said he was sure he wouldn’t do as well in schoolwork without breakfast.

“Not that well because I would be thinking about how hungry I am,” Carson said.

Student Tahniyah Kenney, a sophomore, agreed. Tayniyah got yogurt and orange juice between biology and psychology classes.

“I’m better with breakfast. I can think better, I guess, because I ate something,” Tahniyah said.

According to Mary Catherine Talton, director of child nutrition for Wilson County Schools, the grant for the program is from No Kid Hungry NC, an initiative based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

“The grant is for innovative breakfasts changes,” Talton said. “The county has received around $13,000 for the four schools that are moving to innovative breakfasts. It’s based on what is referred to as a ‘breakfast gap,’ which is the amount of students who qualify for free or reduced meals that eat lunch but not breakfast at school.”

Forest Hills Middle is the middle school chosen to participate in the program because it has the highest breakfast gap.

Talton said this is a one-time grant to supply funding for equipment and program implementation. The grant will not cover meal costs but is paying for the startup equipment. Students are served once a day in the program.

“It’s important that we offer breakfast to every student to meet the basic human needs of students,” Talton said. “We recognize that when a student is well fed, they can be well taught. When a person is hungry, even us adults, it’s hard to think about much of anything else.”

The “second chance” breakfast is offered to students at 8:55 a.m. between first and second periods. The time may serve an additional subset of children beyond breakfast, which is served when they arrive at school.

Student Bryce Winstead liked the meal’s timing.

“I think it’s good. I don’t usually eat breakfast in the morning, but having a second chance to get it gives me a second chance to eat,” Bryce said. “Having something on my stomach definitely helps me learn better because I don’t think about eating the entire day.”

“This is one reason we think second chance breakfast at high schools is so important,” Talton said. “We also see that there are a good amount of students who take classes online or are exempt from classes and don’t have to be on campus first thing in the morning. This gives those students an opportunity they didn’t previously have.”

Talton said the breakfast menu will mimic the menu already used at the district’s elementary schools for grab-and-go breakfasts.

Hunt Principal Eddie Doll said any time you can provide a breakfast for kids, you can give them energy for learning.

Doll said the breakfast offering is going to take away that need and reduce hunger.

“It provides then the opportunity to focus on their learning and focus on their socializing in school. It takes that worry away,” Doll said. “I think it is going to be a positive program that’s going to provide positive results and improve learning.”