Program provides free breakfast in classroom for students at Ochoco, Paulina elementaries

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: December 09. 2006 5:00AM PST

Along with roll call and the Pledge of Allegiance, students at Ochoco and Paulina elementary schools are now enjoying a filling breakfast during the first minutes of class every day.

The Crook County School District is rolling out a new “Breakfast in the Classroom” pilot program at Ochoco and Paulina. Every morning, the children receive a free breakfast that they can eat as they settle into the school day.

Jan Brieske, business manager for the Crook County School District, said the meal is supposed to supply 25 percent of the students’ daily caloric intake. The rotating menu includes cereal, fruit, bagels with cream cheese and hot items.

“When you go to this sort of a model you’re shifting your point of service from the cafeteria area to the classrooms.

You have to have a way of transporting the food … and still keep the temperature up and meet all the regulations,” Brieske said. “We’re maybe just a little timid to launch right out there and maybe do full-scale hot breakfast every day, but we’re working to see what works for our staff, our teachers and our students.”

Previously, both schools offered breakfast in the cafeteria before school started, but that meal has now been replaced with the classroom option.

Jan Boles, principal of Ochoco Elementary, said the program has been in place there since Nov. 27. In Paulina, the daily classroom breakfast started Nov. 1, teacher Jo Hoppe said. Both Boles and Hoppe said it has been a success so far.

“We really like it, from our morning exercise we get into the classroom quicker (and) the kids don’t make messes, which we thought they might,” Hoppe said. “They get longer to eat; they can eat at their leisure.”

Paulina and Ochoco were chosen because both schools have a high percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch. The schools receive federal reimbursements for the number of free and reduced meals they serve, which make it possible to pay for breakfast for all students, including those who pay the regular price for lunch.

Each also has a large number of students that travel a long distance to school. That means that even if they eat breakfast before leaving the house, they may be hungry again by the time they get to school.

“I think our kids, so many of them have to get started so, so early, that they’re hungry by 8 o’clock,” Boles said. “Maybe they’re eating breakfast at 6 to get on the bus at 7, and some kids generally, they get themselves off to school and they might not eat.”

Brieske said all Crook County schools serve breakfast before the beginning of the school day. Based on the results with the Ochoco and Paulina pilot program, breakfast in the classroom may expand to other schools.

The Bend-La Pine school district has had a similar program in place at some schools since 1998, said Terry Cashman, assistant director of operations for the district. Breakfast in the classroom is now offered at La Pine, Bear Creek and Juniper elementary schools and La Pine Middle School, all of which have at least 50 percent of the students receiving free or reduced-price lunch.

Cashman said the program has been a hit with students and teachers. The number of children eating breakfast every day since in-class breakfast has been available rose from 1,500 to 4,200, he said.

“One of the concerns was that they might lose curriculum time, but most of the teachers have tied it into part of their curriculum day, so it has an impact,” Cashman said. “We’ve had reports of less disciplinary issues, and kids are staying better on task because they’re not worrying about being hungry.”Hoppe said she has seen better performance in students at Paulina Elementary so far. At Ochoco Elementary, Boles said it is too soon to tell what effect daily breakfast will have, but the students are excited about it.

“In fact, I had a little kid the other day who told me he had the opportunity to not come to school on time, and I said, ‘You did? Well what changed your mind?’ ” Boles said. “And he said, ‘I was hungry, I wanted to come in for breakfast.'”

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