After the success of a pilot program to provide free breakfast to students at Windsor Elementary School, the RSU 12 Board of Directors has voted to continue the program and bring it to other schools.
RSU 12 Director of Nutrition Mike Flynn made a presentation about the Breakfast After the Bell program to the board on Thursday, May 2.
Breakfast After the Bell gives all students the opportunity to get free breakfast in the classroom at the beginning of the school day. Teachers help students select food from a cart, which stores enough for about four classes.
The pilot program at Windsor Elementary started in early February.
Prior to the program, Windsor Elementary served 33% of its students breakfast. Now it serves breakfast to 79% of its 270 students.
The district receives federal reimbursement for the expense of the program.
Each student must take a fruit or vegetable and two out of three more options – milk, protein, and whole grain – for the meal to count as reimbursable.
The federal reimbursement for breakfast depends on whether a student qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch. The district receives $2.14 for those who qualify for free lunch, $1.84 for those who qualify for reduced-price lunch, and 31 cents for those who qualify for neither. Flynn said teachers keep track of which students take reimbursable meals.
The highest average cost per tray since starting the program at Windsor was $1.37, which includes labor, supplies, and food, Flynn said. Tuttle said this will allow the district to break even with the federal reimbursement.
According to RSU 12 Superintendent Howie Tuttle, prior to Breakfast After the Bell program, students who qualify for free lunch could get free breakfast in the cafeteria, while students who qualify for reduced-price lunch could get reduced-price breakfast and students who pay full price for lunch would pay in full for a breakfast.
All RSU 12 schools besides Windsor Elementary have continued with the same payment plan.
The Breakfast After the Bell program serves cold breakfast three days a week and hot breakfast two days.
According to Flynn, the program is “feeding more people with less time” because students are not going to the cafeteria to eat breakfast.
“After we began, about 35 days later, they started legislation on Breakfast After the Bell, so we’re ahead of the curve,” Flynn said.
Flynn was referring to L.D. 359, “An Act To Address Student Hunger with a ‘Breakfast after the Bell’ Program.”
The bill aims to “Provide ongoing funding to school administrative units that operate alternative breakfast delivery services that provide breakfast after the start of the school day,” according to its text. “A school administrative unit with a public school in which at least 50% of students qualified for a free or reduced-price lunch during the preceding school year qualifies for funding.”
Other states across the nation have passed or are considering Breakfast After the Bell programs.
Board members from Windsor spoke highly of the program.
“I applaud you guys for the program. I think it’s wonderful. You are reaching the right people,” Windsor representative Thomas McNaughton said.
However, Tuttle said he can understand concerns about the program reducing instructional time for students.
“I’m not surprised to hear that people are nervous now that we are going to feed everybody. That seems like it would take forever, but all the feedback says it is more efficient,” Tuttle said.
The board unanimously voted to continue the program.
“Chelsea is the next site for trying out Breakfast After the Bell. If everything continues to be a success, then we will move it to Whitefield and Palermo,” Tuttle said in an email after the meeting.
The board voted to accept a grant from the Chef Ann Foundation that will cover the cost of four new salad bars in the district.
Two of the salad bars will be for older students to use and two for younger students, Flynn said.
“We were awarded almost immediately after we gave them our narrative because of our goals as a district,” he said.
According to the Chef Ann Foundation website, the grant is worth about $3,147 for equipment.
The grant will help the district move toward its goal of more food-conscious and healthier schools. Flynn does not yet know which schools will get the new salad bars.
Whitefield Boston trip
The board approved Whitefield Elementary School’s annual fifth grade class trip, which will take place May 17. Tuttle said the board votes on any out-of-state field trips.
The class trip was started by the late fifth grade teacher Dennis Cullenberg. This year, for the first time, the trip will be 100% funded by the Cullenberg family, Tuttle said.
Farm-to-School Cook-Off winner
Paige Clark, a sixth-grader from Chelsea Elementary School, won the state title during the annual Farm-to-School Cook-Off using salad greens grown in Whitefield Elementary School’s aquaponics program.
Clark worked with Stacy Boudreau, a member of the school nutrition staff at Chelsea Elementary, to compete in the event on April 23.
After winning their regional competitions, the three finalist teams had to prepare a breakfast and lunch for judges.
The other two teams came from the Cherryfield and South Portland school departments.