Fulton elementary school students to get free breakfast during year

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FULTON - Fulton Public Schools will offer free breakfast in the classroom to all elementary school students for the 2015-2016 school year.

Superintendent Jacque Cowherd said the Breakfast in the Classroom program is new this year. He said some students have not had the chance to eat breakfast in past years, and he sees connections to poverty levels.

"Our free and reduced lunch rate is over 50 percent right now. And when you look at that, that would be an indication of poverty in the community," Cowherd said. "In the prior years, our breakfast participation at the elementary has been lagging around 60, 62, 63 percent."

Cowherd said that's why the district is excited to offer breakfast free of charge to every elementary school student - not just those with normally free meals.

"We've got almost 40 percent of the kids that are not eating by choice or don't have the opportunity," he said. "With a high free and reduced lunch rate, I suspect they don't have the opportunity. So this, we believe, will push our breakfast eating rate above 90 percent - hopefully getting close to 100 percent."

Cowherd said there's research that backs up breakfast being the most important meal of the day. That's what the district told the parents, as well.

"Students who participate in the breakfast program concentrate better and remember more of what they learn, perform better academically and have better school attendance. Also, their overall dietary intake is better than that of non-participating students," Director of Food Service Rhonda Fletcher said in a statement to the parents and guardians.

The students will be able to pick up the free breakfast from the cafeteria or another station around the school, and will bring it back to their classrooms.

"They'll come to school, eat breakfast again. It's being provided free as part of the program, so they have that opportunity. If they don't want to eat, they don't have to eat. But if they want to, it's there for them," Cowherd said.

He said at this time, he doesn't know how much the program will cost, but the district had to order trays to keep the food hot or cold, and garbage cans.

"Once you spread breakfast out through the building vs. in that central location, you gotta have some way to deal with all the trash," Cowherd said.

According to the district's elementary school breakfast menu, it will serve items like flavored waffles or pancakes, mini french toast and breakfast tacos in August and September.

Cowherd said students who need special food accommodations will get them.

"We deal with those issues all the time, and those kids will be identified, and appropriate food will be provided for those," he said. "Most of those youngsters that have those allergies, they know who they are, and they're pretty good about letting us know, and we also know who they are, too, so we try to watch that."

If the program does well at the elementary level, Cowherd could see it expanding to the middle school and then the high school.