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New program provides breakfast after the bell

New program provides breakfast for students after the bell

A well-balanced day begins with a well-balanced meal, and Gaston County Schools is working to make sure that no student starts the day hungry.

The school district recently implemented a new program called “Breakfast after the Bell” that provides students another opportunity to eat breakfast.  It is ideal for students who were not able to eat before leaving home or arrive early enough to eat in the cafeteria before school.

The district received a state grant for the program that is in place at four schools.  While the program is just getting started, the Gaston County Schools Nutrition Department is already seeing the program make a difference for students.

“Studies show that students who eat breakfast do better in school,” said Angela Calamia, director of school nutrition.  “Students can stay more focused in class and have less absences. We have had almost 300 more students across the county to eat breakfast since the program began last month.”

Chapel Grove Elementary School, North Belmont Elementary School, Ashbrook High School, and Hunter Huss High School have all seen growth in the number of students eating breakfast.  The elementary schools offer “Grab ‘n Go” breakfast where students can purchase something to eat before they go to class. The high schools offer “Second Chance” breakfast where students can purchase a well-balanced meal between their first and second period classes.

The “Grab ‘n Go” and “Second Chance” programs are designed to make breakfast more accessible and convenient, thus increasing the number of students who benefit from eating breakfast.  Some schools are seeing more than double the number of students who regularly purchase breakfast as a result of the program.

Bryan Denton, principal at Hunter Huss, said he has noticed a great response from students.  “It’s been great for our school.  Our teachers and our students are happy about it, and a happy student is a not hungry student.”

Each school is figuring out the best way to cater to students’ food choices.  One idea is to offer certain meals on certain days like smoothies on Tuesdays or parfaits on Thursdays.  Other days, students are able to get packaged items in addition to fruit and juice or milk.

Gaston County is among 10 school districts in the state to receive grant funding for the “Breakfast after the Bell” initiative through the No Kid Hungry and the Dairy Alliance programs.  It’s a statewide effort that has gained praise from Governor Roy Cooper and First Lady Kristin Cooper, who announced plans for the new program in December.

According to Calamia, the School Nutrition Department is ready to see the program grow and wants to expand to other schools next year.