AUSTIN (KXAN) — A program aimed at providing the most important meal of the day to thousands of students is getting a boost. And now there’s another way the state can pay for it.
Every morning at St. Elmo Elementary School in South Austin, red baskets greet students at their classroom doors. They’re packed with cereal, bacon, bread and other breakfast items.
No more going to the cafeteria for the most important meal of the day. Just this week, St. Elmo students started eating it at their desks.
It’s a relief for some busy parents. “I know she likes to play around and stuff. So, I don’t know if she’s able to get her full breakfast. Sometimes I have to get to school or work, so I just have to drop her off,” parent Destiny Benavidez said. Austin ISD’s “Breakfast in the classroom” program isn’t a new one. It has been around for three years now. The district went from eight to 25 campuses with the program this school year.
Much of the meals are backed by federal dollars. Austin and all of the state’s school districts are now eligible to apply for a private $7.5 million grant, designed to drop the drag that comes with no breakfast.
“We see less tardies… We have less absences,” Anneliese Tanner, AISD food services director says. “We have fewer nurse visits and fewer discipline interruptions.” School leaders say with breakfast served by a teacher, the embarrassment in the cafeteria over who receives free and reduced meals disappears.
“There’s no distinction in the classroom as to who’s getting a free breakfast and who’s not getting a free breakfast, cause it’s available to all kids. At that moment in time, they’re all the same,” said Noel Candalaria, president of the Texas State Teachers’ Association.
AISD serves nearly 80,000 meals, including breakfast, lunch and in some cases dinner, to its students across the district everyday. Texas is now one of 10 states eligible for this new private grant to expand breakfast in the classroom.
Austin school leaders say when they moved breakfast to the classroom, they saw a 50 percent jump in the number of students who ate the meal.