Classes will get breakfast

FAIRMONT – Every student at Fairmont Elementary will be served breakfast in their classroom in the upcoming school year, at no cost to families.

Breakfast has been available in the cafeteria before school. Students on free or reduced lunch could get served for no cost, while other students could buy breakfast.

According to Superintendent Joe Brown, few students eligible for the free meals partook in them.

“With nearly 50 percent of students on free and reduced lunch, we should have had 450 students eating breakfast,” he said. “But we had only 200 students eating.”

He believes a combination of factors kept students away, including not getting to school in time to eat before class, and the social stigma of poverty.

Because the federal government reimburses breakfasts at a cost above the cost of preparing the food, the district determined it could feed each student for free if it could get the free and reduced lunch students to participate.

By moving meals into classrooms at the start of the school day, and offering it to all children, the stigma of eating breakfast at school is removed, along with the problem of getting to school early.

The amount of money the program generates for the school depends on how many students actually eat breakfast.

“If all 900 students came to school every day and at breakfast, it would generate something like $30,000 to $40,000 for the food service program,” Brown said.

Feeding all students at no cost to the district has raised concerns among community members.

“We have had some comments that parents should provide breakfast,” said council member Sandy Beckendorf.

“I don’t think anyone wants to argue with that. … But for various reasons, many of our students are not getting breakfast,” she said.

Elementary Principal Jim Davison said the meal will be a “grab-and-go” breakfast, and served during the school’s new “zero hour,” a non-instructional time in the classroom that allow students to eat while receiving homework help from teachers or working on other projects.

Research has shown eating breakfast improves classroom performance, including better test scores and grades; increases children’s ability to focus; decreases behavior problems; and increases attendance.