More in-classroom breakfasts expected to help students

More in-classroom breakfasts expected to help students

PAWTUCKET – Starting next week, Agnes Little Elementary School will begin offering breakfast in the classroom.

“Improving access to school breakfast is an opportunity to ensure all students start the day off right,” said Community School Coordinator Emily Mallozzi, pictured.

Pawtucket has historically had the lowest participation levels in its universal free breakfast program of any of the cities in Rhode Island that have the program. According to Mallozzi, students currently have to get to school 20 minutes before the day starts to get free breakfast, so only about 40 percent of Agnes Little students have participated.

“Now it will be part of the school day and it should increase to 75 to 100 percent of our kids eating breakfast,” she said.

Aramark will begin serving food in the classrooms at Agnes Little starting next Monday, Feb. 11. The breakfast program is reimbursed by the federal government.

According to Rhode Island Kids Count, students who eat breakfast have higher math and reading scores, fewer absences, improved attentiveness, and lower incidences of social and emotional problems.

Agnes Little and Winters Elementary will start serving in-classroom breakfasts this month, and Baldwin Elementary and city middle schools are already doing it, said Mallozzi.

Matt Bergeron, an administrator at Baldwin, reacted to the news of in-classroom breakfasts at Agnes Little by saying that Baldwin has increased breakfast participation by more than 250 meals per day with the program.

“Full bellies equals active minds,” he said in a tweet.

According to statistics provided by Mallozzi, children who eat breakfast attend school an average of 1.5 days more per year, score 17.5 percent better in math, and are 20 percent more likely to graduate high school. High school graduates earn an average of $10,000 more and are far less likely to experience hunger as adults.

The Breeze reported in 2017 that Pawtucket received $6,230,963 the previous year for school lunches and snacks and $637,532 for school breakfasts, according to data provided by RIDE. Two years ago, the city’s 16 public schools enrolled nearly 9,300 students, more than 6,800 of who were eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. During that same month, the school system served 127,443 lunches, of which 109,109 were free or reduced-price, but it served only 43,709 breakfasts, of which 36,072 were free or reduced-price, according to RIDE data.

With children already in school during lunch periods, alternative models for breakfast, such as breakfast in the classrooms, are needed, said state education representatives at the time. However, more infrastructure was needed for such an initiative, including provisions for cleaning up and ensuring that students stay focused and pay attention to the teacher.

The Rhode Island School Nutrition Landscape Analysis, which summarizes state and federal data, reported in 2017 that Pawtucket “has the most potential for growth, given its low breakfast participation rate – 34 percent.”