RIPLEY, Ohio – Alternate methods of serving breakfast to students were discussed at the Ripley Union Lewis Huntington school board meeting on Wednesday, May 16.
Michele Rau, Nutrition and Food Service coordinator for RULH, requested the opportunity to pilot a breakfast in the classroom program with K-2 students for the 2018-2019 school year.
“Hopefully we will be rolling that into a full implementation,” Rau said.
According to Rau, the pilot program would last weeks and only be implemented among kindergartners, first- and second-graders at RULH Elementary School.
“We have tried this before and we had a lot of food waste,” Rau said. “Some things have changed where that doesn’t have to happen now.”
Rau said that there are now pre-packaged grab-and-go style breakfast meals where items are sealed individually so individual food items could be saved if not eaten.
Rau said that at the middle school, 60 percent of students ate breakfast during March and 52 percent of elementary school students ate breakfast.
“If we had breakfast in the classroom we would probably see those numbers jump into the 70s,” Rau said.
Thomas Ben, Southwest director for the nonprofit Children’s Hunger Alliance, said that one out of every five children in Ohio comes from a food-insecure home where a home-cooked meal is not a guarantee.
“That means we have about 600,000 students in Ohio who come from food insecure homes,” Ben said. “That’s appalling.”
According to Ben, 47 percent of households in Brown County rely on food pantries. The hope is that if more children can be fed breakfast at school, then more children could be eating breakfast period.
“When children eat breakfast, their cognitive functioning will improve in the classroom,” Ben said. “What can we do to help students perform better in the classroom?”
Ben said that a good thing about his organization helping RULH with developing a more efficient breakfast delivery method is that it would cost the school district no money, as Children’s Hunger Alliance is fully funded through donations.
“What I’m pleading with the board is to think beyond what may have happened here in previous experiences with breakfast in the classroom and allow us to come in as an agency and to partner with you,” Ben said. “We can help deal with those issues, rectify that and make a better program for the children. Because that’s what it is about.”
Ben said there could be a breakfast in the classroom with delivery, grab-and-go stations in the halls or some combination of the two for the pilot program.
“We would have a start and an end time,” Ben said. “It would also allow students who come in tardy to be given the chance at a breakfast.”
Ben also said that these methods would be able to produce more much-needed revenue for the food service program at RULH.
“We will look at the data and see if this pilot program makes a significant difference in those grades of students who are participating in breakfast,” Ben said. “The whole purpose is to run a trial test to see how the program would work.”
Ben said that, if adopted, the pilot program would probably take place sometime around September of the 2018-2019 school year to give students a chance to settle into the year.