In this “People Behind the Policies” blog, a Principal talks about her experiences with implementing breakfast within her school and how it relates to our goal to end childhood hunger in Maryland by 2015.
“The Most Important Meal of the Day”
Hunger is thought to be a third-world problem, but the reality that 1 in 5 American children struggles with hunger qualifies it as an all-too-real problem here in the United States as well. At Patterson High School we see it every day. Roughly 80% of Patterson High School students receive free or reduced lunch, and many students are very hungry throughout the school day.
Patterson started taking on the hunger issue the way we should start every day–with breakfast. Even students whose families are not struggling to provide food arrive to school without having eaten. Studies show that students who eat breakfast at school perform and behave better than students who skip breakfast at home. Moreover, breakfast-eating students are less likely to be overweight, more likely to be present and on time, and it improves the learning environment. With all of these facts out on the table it was obvious to us that Patterson High School would be serving breakfast this year. Thanks to Share Our Strength, the First Class Breakfast program was initiated at Patterson.
Every morning Patterson students engage in 500 Conversations, a homeroom-style period where students discuss a daily topic in efforts to make them not only scholars, but well-rounded adults as well. The cafeteria staff, HealthCorps coordinator, and Lifeskills program work together to deliver the First Class Breakfast program’s nutritious meals to each and every Patterson student, free, during the 500 Conversations period. At first, students were hesitant to accept the milk and cereal or bagel and cream cheese with juice. They are now very eager to share the meal together. Students who previously ate nothing all day long now eagerly await the arrival of their in-class breakfast. The program has given students further incentive to attend the 500 Conversations period. Teachers believe that the program has improved performance, alertness and participation in class. With hunger out of the way, students can now concentrate on their studies. Patterson High School is devoted to go beyond teaching ABCs and 123s, to empower Baltimore’s teenagers to be healthy adults who move on to positive futures. The First Class Breakfast Program, along with Patterson’s new lunchroom salad bar, is setting the tone for a newly healthy school environment that leaves no kid hungry, and all kids successful.
This blog is posted on 49 sites throughout Maryland. Join the statewide conversation in comments! Find other Patch sites here.