Area students get off to good start Universal Free Breakfast

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on the Free and Reduced lunch program and the Universal Free breakfast program at Manistee County Schools. Today we will look at the Universal Free Breakfast program.

The students at Kaleva Norman Dickson Schools all have the opportunity to receive a free breakfast under the Universal Free Breakfast Program. That is made possible because more than 50 percent of their students qualifying for Free and Reduced lunches. Students at Kennedy and Jefferson Elementary schools also qualify for the free breakfast in the classroom. (Courtesy photo)

The students at Kaleva Norman Dickson Schools all have the opportunity to receive a free breakfast under the Universal Free Breakfast Program. That is made possible because more than 50 percent of their students qualifying for Free and Reduced lunches. Students at Kennedy and Jefferson Elementary schools also qualify for the free breakfast in the classroom. (Courtesy photo)

MANISTEE — Nothing is more important at any age level to getting the day off to a good start than eating a good breakfast.

It is especially important for children to eat a good breakfast because it assists them in the learning process. At three Manistee County School buildings the opportunity is available for every child to get a free breakfast  every morning. That happens because the number of students receiving Free and Reduced breakfasts exceeds 50 percent.

Tim Klenow serves as food service director at the Kaleva Norman Dickson, Onekama Consolidated and Bear Lake schools. Of those three school districts KND is the only one that exceeds 50 percent and all of the students are eligible to eat breakfast for free.

“Anything at 50 percent or above allows you to take advantage of the At-Risk programs,” said Klenow. “At KND we do the after school At-Risk suppers here and that is all 100 percent free like the breakfast in the classroom. We definitely get a lot more participation for the breakfast.”

Klenow said in the end everyone K-12 is eligible for a free breakfast. He said the elementary students seem to take advantage of it at a higher percentage than the middle or high school level.

“We always offer assorted cereals, fresh fruit, juice, dried fruits like craisens or applesauce,” said Klenow. “We also have a main item in the morning that varies between pancakes or French toast, bagels or breakfast pizza. It is definitely worth it for them to take advantage of it.”

The only other district to offer the Universal Free Breakfast in the Classroom Program is the Manistee Area Public Schools. They offer it at both Kennedy and Jefferson Elementary schools this year. This is the first year it has been offered at Kennedy Elementary and principal Kevin Schmutzler said it is going over well.

“Being a part of it at Jefferson Elementary last year and seeing how kids enjoyed it and now with the shift (grade realignment) where this year’s third and fourth graders had it last year they were expecting it again,” said Schmutzler. “The teachers here who weren’t familiar with it were wondering what it was about and have fully embraced it. They love how it’s first thing in the morning and it’s a sense of community. We do our morning announcements at that time and it brings a whole different feeling to that classroom.”

Manistee Food Service director Keri Carlson said the students are really responding to the Universal Free Breakfast in the classroom at both buildings.

“At Jefferson Elementary School they will feed about 260 and Kennedy they are running about 220 to 240 students,” said Carlson. “At Jefferson Elementary more students actually eat breakfast than lunch. I think it has been received pretty well by the teachers.”

Carlson said some of the teachers get the students involved in the process.

“Some will put all the components out on the desk including the milk, fruit, juice and the kids come in and it’s all ready for them,” she said. “Then I had some teachers say they had a couple of kids who love to pass it out. One other teacher said she has the students come up and they check off what they take, like the lunch lady would do.”

Teachers in both districts say they did see a difference in student performance when they all get a good breakfast to eat at the start of the day. They also like the concept of the students getting the opportunity to converse and get a sense of community in the classroom.

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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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