AUSTIN (KXAN) — For some Austin Independent School District students, the meals they get in school could be the only ones they eat all day. And while dozens of AISD schools offer free breakfast, less than 30 percent of students were taking advantage of it.
“I would notice kids would come in the morning and not really seem like themselves,” says third grade teacher, Alli Cassidy. “When I would have a conversation with them, we would get to the root of the problem, which was: they were hungry.”
At Langford Elementary in South Austin, only 32 percent of students were eating breakfast at school. Principal Dounna Poth didn’t realize the numbers were so low, but understood how it was possible.
One reason being, students had to arrive early, at 7 a.m., to get the breakfast. She also says some students just didn’t feel comfortable eating in the cafeteria before class. “I had one parent tell me that their daughter was a fifth grader and she didn’t like eating in the cafeteria,” Poth said. “She just didn’t like the stigma of eating breakfast at school.”
But in a school where 96 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch, she knew it was a problem. Poth said it was “staggering to think some of my students were only getting a lunch every day.”
A new program is changing that, putting breakfast in the hands of more kids, during class. It’s called Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC), and has been implemented in six AISD schools. In just two months, the number of students eating breakfast at school has nearly tripled in some cases.
“Breakfast in the classroom is one of the very best ways that we can bring healthy food access to Austin ISD,” said Anneliese Tanner, AISD Food Service Director. “And it ensures that our students are getting the nutrition that they need for their growth and learning.”
Each morning, cafeteria staff deliver fresh meals to teachers’ doors. The meals range from cereal to breakfast sandwiches to waffles. Fresh fruit is also included in the meal.
“When we move breakfast from the cafeteria to the classroom, it becomes convenient,” says Tanner.
The school has gone from 32 percent of students eating breakfast at school, to now 95 percent.
And teachers say they’re seeing results: better attendance and less tardiness. “They want to be here, they want to be a part of the breakfast,” Cassidy believes.
So far, six schools have implemented the Breakfast in the Classroom program. The district says they hope to get the program in all schools that offer Universal Breakfast.
Other districts who have implemented similar programs reporter better scores in math and reading.