LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — There are now 19 schools in Jefferson County that offer free breakfast to students.
The schools are participating in the national Breakfast in a Classroom program, which is a joint initiative involving the Food Research and Action Center, the National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation, National Education Association Health Information Network and the School Nutrition Foundation.
The national initiative began last year with a $5 million grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation and expanded to Jefferson County last fall.
JCPS Director of School and Community Nutrition Services Julia Bauscher told The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/XoABey) that the schools selected to participate in the program have high numbers of low-income students.
Cochran principal Tim Foster said the program has brought "a lot of great things. ... First and foremost, all of our children have access to free breakfast and most are eating it, which means their bellies are full and they are not hungry as they start their school day."
Studies link a good breakfast to students being able to focus better, behave better and perform better, Foster said.
The program has also changes how students get meals. Instead of eating in the cafeteria, students have breakfast in the classroom.
"Since all students in the participating schools receive breakfast free, it eliminates any stigma for students who are eligible for free or reduced meal benefits," Bauscher said. "Everyone gets to eat breakfast, regardless of their family's income level."
Recently at Cochran Elementary, kindergarten students in Lauren Flowers' classroom sat at their desks, while breakfast quesadilla, apples and chocolate milk were passed out.
"I love apples," 5-year-old Jadyn Stokes said with a big smile. "They are yummy."
Foster said the program has increased instruction time at his school.
"As soon as they arrive in the building each morning, they are going straight to the library or computer lab, or they are working in small groups with teachers," he said. "Instead of standing in the cafeteria, waiting for breakfast and doing nothing —we are able to give them some instruction the minute they walk in the door. We don't want to waste a minute."
JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens says she is hopeful for other positive outcomes, such as better attendance, less tardiness and fewer trips to the school nurse.
"We think it's a wonderful program, and we hope to expand it to more of our schools in the near future," Hargens said.
Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com