The line begins to form about 7:40 and by 8:05 the more than 300 children are gone, disappeared into their classrooms with their cartons of milk and juice, their oatmeal buns, their cereal and fruit cups.
It’s just another Tuesday morning during the breakfast rush at Pink Hill Elementary School – except the ladies serving breakfast are wearing funny paper glasses and passing out “lucky trays” and making sure the students know that this is National School Breakfast Week.
“The children like to see us dressed up,” said Nivea Mosley, the school’s cafeteria manager who, with her three-person staff, has gone to lengths to make this week memorable – from the decorations to the coloring contest to the excitement of winning silly glasses or stickers or a free bag of chips just because you picked up a lucky tray.
“We’re doing it all week, Mosley said. “They have plenty of chances to win.”
Across LCPS, cafeterias are supporting this week’s theme – “I Heart School Breakfast” – to draw attention to the benefits of starting the day with breakfast and to encourage more families to take advantage of the healthy choices available for school breakfast.
“Our Child Nutrition Department has made it our mission to reach every student in Lenoir County Public Schools to give them the opportunity to eat breakfast with us in our cafeterias every day,” Danelle Smith, department director, said. “Breakfast is the start of a new day, a new start, and a new kind of energy in our students from eating breakfast that allows them to learn instead of worrying about when lunch is coming because they didn’t get breakfast at home. If our students are getting breakfast at home, great! If not, we want to be a stop for them on the way into school where they can get a great breakfast and be ready to learn.”
LCPS provides breakfasts and lunches to all students at no cost; but because of its benefits to children’s health and ability to learn, the district has put a special emphasis on breakfast, giving schools flexibility in serving it and tweaking the menus toward more youth-oriented fare.
“We have added fruit-yogurt smoothies to our breakfast menu three times a week for our middle and high school students,” Smith said. “The students are enjoying them and it’s bringing more students to breakfast.”
And to lunch. This week students have the option of eating breakfast for lunch. On Tuesday, they had pancakes and sausage or a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit among entrée choices. On Thursday, they can choose chicken and waffles or a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit.
A family’s hectic weekday mornings may be an enemy of breakfast nutrition, but U.S. Department of Agriculture data show more and more students are starting their day with breakfast in school cafeterias. The School Breakfast Program currently serves more than 14 million students every weekday, according to the USDA.
Studies show that students who eat school breakfast are more likely to reach higher levels of achievement in math; score higher on standardized tests; have better concentration, memory and alertness; have improved attendance, behavior and academic performance; and maintain a healthy weight.