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Breakfast a la cart
Chasco Elementary's award-winning "Breakfast in the Loop" program is a popular way to start the school day.
By MICHELLE MILLER, Times Staff Writer
Published October 10, 2007
Rebecca Calderone gets her ready-to-go bagged breakfast with a Bageler, which is a cream cheese filled bagel stick, and some milk as she and other students line up at the mobile breakfast carts stationed around Chasco Elementary's campus before the school day begins.
[Brendan Fitterer | Times]
[Brendan Fitterer | Times]
Ethan Holmes grabs a Bageler and juice from one of the mobile breakfast carts.
On a typical school day, Mirandas Jones gets up at 7:30 a.m., gets dressed and heads to the Salvation Army Day Care Center to play for a while.
From there she takes the bus to Chasco Elementary. Once at school she lines up with other kids at the breakfast cart outside the bus loop under the covered shelter. Maybe she grabs a bagel, an apple and a carton of milk or perhaps opts for yogurt or a hot ham-and-egg breakfast sandwich and juice. Then she heads to her classroom to eat at her desk and get started on the morning assignments her teacher has written on the board.
"I like the breakfasts here," said Mirandas, 10. "I'm not really hungry when I first get up."
It's grab and go, but the portable breakfast cart at Chasco Elementary has proved to be a good way to ensure that kids like Mirandas get the most important meal of the day and get to class on time.
Then there's the off-chance the effort might garner an award.
In this case, it did.
For its innovative efforts, Chasco Elementary was recently named the second-place winner of the Expanding Breakfast Award by the Dairy Council of Florida.
Chasco Elementary's "Breakfast in the Loop" program features four breakfast carts placed strategically throughout the campus and is offered free to all 715 students whether or not they qualify for the free or reduced-pricemeals program.
Since the program started, more than 70 percent of the school's students are lining up each morning, standardized testing scores have improved and teachers are reporting that their students are better focused.
"This year we're serving about 470 to 500 for breakfast each day," said Beverly LoPata, the food and nutrition manager at the Chasco Elementary/Chasco Middle School campus. "That's a 25 percent increase from last year."
"Food is fuel," said LoPata, who coordinated Breakfast in the Loop along with assistant manager Julie Kennedy and team leader Diana Albertson after hearing about a similar program at a school food and nutrition convention a couple of years ago. "Then we modified it for Chasco," she said, adding that she hopes to purchase a few new carts with the $2,000 prize money the school was awarded.
Plans are also in the works to expand the program to other schools, said Emily Layman, training coordinator for the Pasco County schools Food and Nutrition Department.
"There's a big convenience factor with this," Layman said. "Especially now that the academic calendar is more demanding."
While offering school breakfast is not a new thing at all (the National School Breakfast Program was established in 1966), having portable carts placed at the bus loop, car drop-off area and in school walkways, rather than shuffling kids to the cafeteria each morning, has cut down on tardiness at Chasco.
"Some kids weren't getting back to class till 10 o'clock," LoPata said.
Not a good thing when the starting bell rings at 9:42 a.m. and there's important stuff to learn.
The program has been heartily supported by teachers who don't mind having their students eating in the classroom, said principalJohn Mann.
"The campus clears quickly in the morning. The academic day is starting while they're eating breakfast," he said.
The kids also seem to be paying better attention, Mann said. "You know you really can't focus when your stomach is empty."
Children who are hungry...
- Are less able to distinguish among similar images, show more errors and have slower memory recall.
- Have lower math scores.
- Are more likely to repeat a grade.
- Score lower on cognitive tests.e_SFrBChildren who eat breakfast ...
- Make fewer mistakes and work faster in math and number-checking tests.
- Show improved cognitive function, attention and memory.
- Perform better on vocabulary tests.
- Have more adequate nutrient intake than children who do not.e_SFrBSchools that participate in a free universal breakfast program ...
- Have lower rates of tardiness and absences.
- Have higher breakfast participation.
- Have greater positive changes in academic performance.
Source: Food Research and Action Center, Washington, D.C.