Breakfast Challenge Begins for Caroline County Public Schools

"Breakfast is a special time of the day, its like putting gas in a car, its an energy boost," wrote one Federalsburg Elementary school student. Federalsburg was the site of the official kick-off for measurement in the Maryland Breakfast Challenge.

Schools can earn prizes for increasing their percentage of participation in the breakfast program. But more important than the chance at winning a prize, is the opportunity to have more students eat a healthy breakfast at school.

Interim Superintendent Milton Nagel told an assemblied group of community leaders about the importance of the breakfast in the classroom program. "Federalsburg was the first school to have the breakfast program," said Nagel. Seven of the counties nine schools have breakfast in the classroom.

"A lot of schools (statewide) are on the waiting list, but the needs exceed the funds available," said Nagel. Caroline County is fourth in the state in participation in the school breakfast program (84.7%).

Nagel said there are some misconceptions about the program, that it disrupts the classroom and learning. But in the previous school breakfast program, students, who qualified for free and reduced meals, had to go to the cafeteria in the morning and then they ended up back in the classroom after instruction had begun.

"It is a pretty seamless program," said Beth Brewster, food service coordinator. Every child now has the option of getting breakfast, and there is no stigma of being on free and reduced meals, because all students have the option of taking the breakfast. Brewster said the county has a 56% free and reduced meals rate.

Federalsburg Principal Nikki Vondenbosch said the county rate is 56% but the rate for Federalsburg is well over 80% of the students qualify for free and reduced meals. Shirley Willin, FES cafeteria manager, said it has been a pleasure to serve the children, "getting them ready to learn and its good not to have hungry kids."

Students are offered a variety of breakfast items that Brewster said are low in sugar, low in sodium and whole grains. Breakfast items include zucchini bread, cereal, wild berry bread, banana bread, pop tarts, cereal bars, and mini french toast, and bagels. Students are also offered fruit and milk.

Federalsburg Mayor William Beall said he now has a whole different perception of the breakfast in the classroom program. "I think this is great."