LaRue County Schools offer students another chance at breakfast
Kentucky School Advocate
By Jennifer Wohlleb
It’s a lesson most parents know: kids don’t always eat when adults want them to.
LaRue County Schools has figured that out, too, and is now offering students a second-chance breakfast at a time they may be more likely to eat. The breakfast, offered after first period, has taken off at LaRue County Middle School this year with the help of an $8,300 grant from the American
Association of School Administrators, which allowed the school to buy three food carts and computer tablets so they could make the food more accessible to students.
PHOTO: LaRue County Middle School eighth-grader David Compton grabs a quick, second-chance breakfast between first and second periods.The school used a grant to buy three food carts and computer tablets to make it easier for more students to eat breakfast. Food service employee Von Masure helps students key in their ID numbers on the tablet, which makes check out fast and smooth.
“We wanted to increase our breakfast numbers,” said Principal Jason Detre. “When you look at the demographics of middle school kids, a lot of time when they wake up in the morning, they don’t want to eat first thing, they’re not eating when they get to school. Some of them are waking up literally right off the bus and they don’t want to eat when they first get to school.”
He and his staff looked at different options and decided to add the second-chance breakfast at about 8:55 a.m., following first period. But it wasn’t until this year when the school added its new carts that the program really took off.
“We needed some equipment to sustain that and to make it easier to transport food from one end of the building to the other,” Detre said. “The AASA offered a grant to increase breakfast participation and we were selected as one of the recipients and received a little over $8,000. That purchased our three carts and some tablets that allowed the cashiers to check the students out at the cart instead of bringing a sheet of paper and having to do it manually, so it sped the process up significantly.”
During the 2013-14 school year, Detre said breakfast participation hovered around 130 students per day. Now, it’s somewhere between 250-270 out of the 550-student body. The school built in a five-minute transition between first and second periods. This allows students to go to the carts – or the cafeteria if they are close enough – on a staggered schedule.
“We have been really pleased with the process, but it does take some logistics,” he said. “Our teachers are very accommodating to those students who get breakfast and then go into their second period class and eat while instruction is going on. It took some adjustments at the beginning, but the kids have been very good. We have very few messes to have to clean up; the kids are pretty responsible. All our kids have laptops – we’re a one-to-one school – and we’ve had no one spill milk on a laptop, we’ve had no sticky bun or Pop Tart get caught up in a laptop, so we’re very pleased.”
LaRue County Schools Food Service Director DeAnne Sanders said the breakfast carts first started at the high school two years ago.
“They were part of a grant, a different one, and the carts were so successful that Mr. Detre found this grant and we decided to give it a shot,” she said. “I think what makes it so successful is when you have the principal involved and they really want it to work, because that is the only way I think you’re going to get it going in the right direction, when they support it.”
Sanders said because both the middle and high schools are so spread out, it is too time consuming to ask students to go to the cafeteria for the second-chance breakfast. The carts go to different wings or floors in the schools so students who are not near the cafeteria can grab the portable food items and get back to class.
“It has not been disruptive,” she said. “We’ve had schools come in and observe the program and they are shocked at how quiet and good the students are. I think it makes a difference.”
Detre said the time and effort have been worth it.
“It may sound challenging or daunting, but once you work out the logistics, it meets the needs for kids, it’s the best thing for kids,” he said. “You’ll have a few hiccups in the beginning, but it’s like anything else: the longer you do it, the smoother it is, the more kids are used to it, the more teachers are used to it, and I just think it’s the right thing for all schools to do.”
Detre said a good breakfast is important to students’ physical and mental well-being.
“I think the kids are more focused when they eat breakfast,” he said. “They’re not hungry, they’re not agitated, they’re not waiting for lunch to get here. It’s a little bit of sacrifice for some of the instruction piece, but I think you pay dividends by making sure their needs are met.”