Breakfast pilot program discontinues at Hastings Middle School

Published: May. 17, 2016 at 7:22 PM CDT
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The Hastings Public School district will continue serving the most important meal of the day in some elementary classrooms next year.

Lincoln Elementary and Hastings Middle schools took the lead from other Nebraska districts by offering free breakfast for students, beginning in Fall 2015 as a pilot program.

Ninety percent of Lincoln Elementary School students started their day with breakfast in the classroom, according to Jeff Schneider, the director of finance and operations. He added the success in its first year means the district is looking to expand the program to all elementary schools, starting with two schools to have the universal free breakfast by Fall 2017 pending kitchen renovations to help meet the need.

The district is still moving students around as it moves from six elementary school to five. Schneider wants to give students and staff a year to get settled in the new buildings before introducing the food program. The universal free breakfast for Alcott and Longfellow elementary schools- which don't have kitchens- would be added years down the road as their construction projects get completed.

District officials said the platform was still successful at Hastings Middle School this year but didn't work as well and would not continue in Fall 2016. It operated a little differently in the fact breakfast was served before the bell rings instead of in the classroom.

"We were feeding about 200 to 250 a day at the middle school," Schneider said. "But the problem is when we go to breakfast in the classroom and try to feed 800 in the morning without disrupting first period- to do that, it just took too long to get that many kids through the line and to get the logistics worked out, so we've decided to focus on our elementary schools."

It's an optional program that's available when families need help getting their kids a meal in the morning. That's why some family members were heated up today to learn the breakfast program would not be served in the classroom next year.

"If kids are late to school or don't have enough time to eat at home, they need somewhere else to eat and this is what they kind of counted on," stated Ashley Weaver, a sibling of a Hastings Middle School student.

"It's kind of shocking because my daughter- well, all three of my kids eat breakfast at school every morning," said Amanda Sweeney, a mother of a Hastings Middle School student. "And for me, it's easier for me because I work in the mornings so I don't have time to make them breakfast or I'm already at work."

But there is good news. Students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals can still get breakfast before the bell rings. Otherwise, students can pay the full price for morning meals.

Schneider says with today's standards and assessments, every decision is a fight to get more time in the classroom.

"If we can eliminate some students not feeling well and some behavior issues by feeding kids, it's a tremendous way for us to spend some of the money that our lunch fund has given us," Schneider said. "We've been in the black: we don't supplement our lunch fund."

Schneider said the goal is to make the program district-wide at the elementary level by 2021, estimating a total of $15,000 per year from the lunch fund.

Because of the high number of students who qualify for free and reduced meals at Lincoln Elementary School this year, Schneider said the district might be currently making a profit toward the lunch fund.