Breakfast is getting a boost at some Johnson County schools, thanks to some statewide programs from the Kansas State Department of Education.
And a bonus: Chiefs player Dustin Colquitt helped pass out milk to students at Santa Fe Trail Middle School recently as part of a local push for National School Breakfast Week.
Across the state, districts are trying to encourage more students to eat breakfast by providing more options on school grounds. Colquitt is part of a program promoting school breakfast called Fuel Up to Play 60, sponsored by the National Football League and the Midwest Dairy Council, as part of the National Dairy Council.
Many elementary schools in the Olathe school district have breakfast available in the classroom at the start of school. Options there can include pancakes or French toast sticks.
In the secondary schools, you’re more likely to see Grab and Go breakfast kiosks, which offer a variety of portable options, from fresh fruit and milk to muffins and cereal bars.
Both of these options have received help from the Midwest Dairy Council, in the form of grants to purchase coolers, kiosks and other necessary equipment.
Another option is the Second Chance breakfast, aimed at students who might not be hungry at home before school or even before their first classes. Served after the first class period of the day, it keeps those kids from getting hungry later in the morning.
“I spoke with parents, teachers and administrators,” said Cindy Jones, business management coordinator for food services in the Olathe district. They’re seeing “less sick kids, less tardies. They don’t have kids in the nurse’s office complaining that they’re hungry,”
As schools have been introducing these options, the number of kids partaking in school breakfast has risen, but officials still want to reach more kids, especially those who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
In February, the Shawnee Mission School District served 5,640 reduced-price breakfasts and 41,620 free breakfasts. In that same month, Shawnee Mission served 26,492 reduced-price lunches and 120,745 free lunches.
The Olathe School district has seen a similar gap when it comes to students eligible for the free and reduced-price meals. In January, Olathe served 8,470 reduced-price breakfasts and 43,876 free breakfasts but also served 24,023 reduced-price lunches and 81,546 free lunches.
“We’re not reaching all the students who are eligible for free breakfast or reduced price,” said Cheryl Johnson, child nutrition and wellness team director for the Kansas State Department of Education. “Some of those may eat at home. It really doesn’t matter as long as the children have the opportunity to eat breakfast. That’s the most important thing.”
Although there is a special focus on encouraging these students to take part in the breakfast program, administrators want all kids to be part of it. At five Olathe elementary schools, all students receive free breakfast, regardless of their economic status. Those schools have seen the number of kids who eat breakfast at school double.
“It reduces the stigma when it’s universal free breakfast in the classroom. It makes it so it’s not like it’s just for the poor kids,” Johnson said. “That’s a stigma that can keep students who are truly hungry and need the benefits of the child nutrition program from getting it.”
Breakfast cost 30 cents in Olathe and 35 cents in Shawnee Mission for those eligible for reduced-price meals. Other elementary students can purchase breakfast for $1.30 in Olathe and $1.35 in Shawnee Mission, while the secondary students in those districts can buy it for $1.55 or $1.45, respectively.
Beth Lipoff: firstname.lastname@example.org