COLUMBIA — Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day.
Eating breakfast in the morning can lead to better memorization, math and reading skills, according to the Food Research and Action Center.
The breakfast program allows schools to serve breakfast to their students at free and reduced prices.
The breakfasts are important for kids who come from low-income families, those who don't have time to eat at home in the morning or children who are not physically capable of eating when they first wake up, according to the Food Research and Action Center.
Serving breakfast at school is something that all the public schools in Columbia take advantage of, whether it's for kids who receive free and reduced-price meals or schools that fall under Provision 2 of the National School Lunch Act.
Schools that opt for Provision 2 have a large number of students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals. These schools are able to serve free breakfast or lunch to all their students regardless of their family income. Under Provision 2 the schools must pay back the difference between the cost of serving free meals and the federal reimbursement they receive each year.
Schools serve breakfast, but that does not ensure the children will eat it.
To help ensure that kids are getting the food they need in the morning, some schools are serving breakfast in the classroom.
This program started about 10 to 12 years ago, said Laina Fullum, director of nutrition services for Columbia Public Schools.
Since then, the number of schools that serve breakfast in the classroom has grown.
There are about 30 public schools in the district, and nine of them qualify under Provision 2. Five of those nine — Blue Ridge Elementary, Derby Ridge Elementary, Parkade Elementary, West Boulevard Elementary and Lange Middle schools — serve breakfast in the classroom.
Factors that allow schools to serve breakfast in the classroom are the size of the cafeteria and the number of children trying to eat breakfast.
Some school cafeterias are not big enough for all the children to eat in a certain amount of time, Fullum said.
The schools must also fall under Provision 2 to serve breakfast in the classroom because that means all students are able to receive food. Schools that do not fall under Provision 2 cannot serve breakfast in the classroom because not all students have paid or qualify for the meals.
Blue Ridge Elementary School, one of the first to serve breakfast in the classroom, leaves the decision up to each teacher, Principal Timothy Majerus said.
It's a "calming start to the day" and a "community building activity in the classroom," he said.
"I do encourage them to do that," Majerus said. About six out of 19 classrooms participate, he said, and the others eat breakfast in the cafeteria.
Another two schools will qualify for Provision 2 starting next school year. These schools are Douglass High School and the Center of Responsive Education.
Now that Douglass High School will qualify, breakfast in the classroom is something the school is working toward.
The program would fit with next school year's "emphasis on healthy living and wellness," Principal Eryca Neville said.
While this is a "work in progress," Neville said there is talk of collaborating with the PedNet Coalition and Metro Rotary again to work on the Douglass Bike Project.
The school is also continuing to collaborate with Sam Robinson, director of Healthy Community Initiatives for the PedNet Coalition.
The remaining four schools that qualify under Provision 2 but do not serve breakfast in the classroom are Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary, Benton Elementary, Cedar Ridge Elementary and New Haven Elementary.
Benton is able to serve a free breakfast to all its students but serves it in the lunchroom so there is less disruption for the teachers when they are starting class, Kimberly Kelty, Benton's secretary, said.
When they are done eating, the students will go to their classroom "ready to learn," Kelty said.
Serving breakfast in the cafeteria makes the classroom "more of a learning environment," she said. It also "minimizes trash."
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