KND, MAPS to serve universal free breakfast in classroom

MANISTEE — Statistics show that a child who doesn’t start the day off with a good breakfast is more likely to struggle in the classroom.

The Universal Free Breakfast in the Classroom program will be returning on the first day of school at Kaleva Norman Dickson and Manistee Are Public Schools. The program will be for K-12 students at KND and K-3 students at Madison and Jefferson elementary schools in Manistee.

The Universal Free Breakfast in the Classroom program will be returning on the first day of school at Kaleva Norman Dickson and Manistee Are Public Schools. The program will be for K-12 students at KND and K-3 students at Madison and Jefferson elementary schools in Manistee.

Thats why the Kaleva Norman Dickson Schools and Manistee Area Public Schools took a progressive approach to addressing that problem with the Universal Free Breakfast in the Classroom program. This innovative approach allows students to obtain a healthy breakfast in their first classroom at the start of the day.

Although it has only been in place one year, KND Food Service director Tim Klenow and Manistee Area Public Schools Food Service director Kathy Gutowski say positive results are already showing in student behavior and academics.

“We are doing it again this year and it will begin on Sept. 6, which is the first day of classes for all K-12 students,” said Klenow.

He said the choices are good and that they plan to expand the menu this year.

“We always give them a choice of two different kinds of milk, juice, fresh fruit,” he said. “Then they get their grains with oatmeal bars, cereal bars and cold cereal. This year we are looking to put in some more hot items like mini bagels.”

Klenow said that last year the program was extremely popular among the students.

“It’s a really good deal for the kids,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to pass up and it really helps them out. Our attendance numbers go up. The kids are more alert and able to pay attention in the classroom.”

The administration, teachers and staff are all on board with this program, said Klenow. He added that it is also popular with the parents.

Last year MAPS piloted the program at Madison Elementary School and the results were phenomenal. It went over so well that this year it is being expanded to Jefferson Elementary, which means all kids K-3 will how have access to it.

Kevin Schmutzler who serves as principal at Jefferson Elementary, said they welcome the addition of the program this year.

“This is a really exciting opportunity for all kids,” said Schmutzler. “This will benefit everyone, not only those who always ate breakfast at school, but those that eat breakfast at 6 a.m., get on a bus, and had to wait until 11:30 a.m. for lunch. Eating breakfast together as a class builds the classroom community too, and fosters relationships between the students.”

Madison Elementary School administrative assistant Connie Miller said last year they ran it for the kindergarten students and there was 100 percent participation. She said the staff noticed the difference in the students.

“Because they weren’t focused on their hungry bellies, they were able to focus on the teacher and the lesson,” she said. “It alleviated so many behavior problems we had in the past, and now we look back and we think they were just hungry.”

She said attendance improved and the overall atmosphere was better for all concerned parties.

Another facet of the program that made it work was the teachers did an exceptional job of making it a regular part of the daily routine. By doing that it doesn’t disrupt their schedule of lessons and activities.

Gutowski said it makes a better start to the day for the students.

“What they do is get off the bus and they can go out and play, and when the bell rings breakfast will be in their classroom and they eat while the teachers are taking attendance,” she said. “It gives the kids time to socialize, they learn table manners and how to clean up. It’s just a great investment for everyone.”

MAPS felt things went so well at Madison last year that they decided to expand to Jefferson this year.

“It’s a little more challenging at Jefferson, but I know we can do it,” said Gutowski. “We have been talking all summer about it, and it’s just such a great opportunity for kids.”

Gutowski said depending upon how things go they could add Kennedy Elementary School to the list in January.

“We talked about doing something different at Kennedy and at the middle/high school we are looking at something called second chance breakfast where they could come up after their first class at 9 a.m.,” said Gutowski. “We will definitely get input from the teachers.”

Gutowski said the menu is similar to the one at KND.

“Kids have to take take three items and one has to be a half a cup of fruit or vegetable and you can’t take two juices,” she said. “They have to take a milk, juice, fruit and maybe a breakfast bar. We are going to do a yogurt every Wednesday, but are cautious at what we serve. Right now we are doing cold breakfasts, as we don’t have the oven space at Jefferson Elementary, but we may look at that in the future.”

Gutowski said she feels it is a great program that really benefits the kids, and she hopes it will expand in the future.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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