Academic journal

Wallingford seeks to resume free college breakfast scheme

Many students continue to benefit from extended free breakfast programs at local schools, but some school systems report not being able to offer the program at all schools.

Wallingford Public Schools is currently offering breakfast in elementary and high schools, hoping to bring breakfast back to middle schools this school year.

Tammy Raccio, president of the Wallingford Board of Education, said for a time during the pandemic, colleges were offering take-out breakfasts to her students. That was before the district slowly rolled out the program in elementary schools.

Middle schools “were the first schools (between elementary and middle school) to pilot the expanding breakfast program,” Raccio said.

Fran Thompson, assistant superintendent of staff, said the district offered breakfast at colleges during the pandemic when half the school population was in the building at a time.

“During the pandemic, the college schedule had half the school at a time, so delivering this one and just staffing this one allowed that to happen, so now we have to staff it , what we plan to do and find a way to provide it and not impact our teaching time, which we are currently working on with our college administrators and our food service team at both colleges to provide breakfast for our children,” Thompson said. .

James Bondi, director of food services, said the district hopes to revive the program at colleges, but is currently facing some challenges.

“Catering Operations are planning the introduction of school breakfast at Dag and Moran colleges,” Bondi said. “However, as colleges differ in the complexity of their physical layout and the number of students in each school versus the intended service model, we face unique challenges that we are working to overcome. We hope to find solutions to problems and implement school breakfast in colleges in a timely manner.

Wallingford’s free breakfast program is funded by the School Meals Assistance Revenue for Transition (SMART) program. The State of Connecticut distributed $30 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to school districts to enable them to continue providing free lunches to all students until funding runs out.

Wallingford received $541,793. At the October 11 education board operations committee meeting, Bondi said that in September the district used $196,310.13 from the SMARTfunds. Between breakfast and lunch, 98,941 meals were served last month, an average meal program attendance of 60.2%.

There were 2,678 paid breakfasts served in September. The number of discounted breakfasts served was 211.

Raccio points out that food insecurity has increased. More students in 2020 were eligible for free or reduced-price meals than in 2000, she said. In 2020, 32.6% of pupils at Wallingford Public School were entitled to free or reduced price meals, while in 2000 the percentage was 7.3%, according to the Department of Education in the state.

“It’s a huge change in our community,” Raccio said.

Therefore, Raccio said the district needs to find solutions, primarily to staffing issues, to be able to offer the breakfast program to middle schools.

“Having a breakfast program in our elementary and middle schools solves the problem of food insecurity that we have in our community,” Raccio said.

meridian

Meriden Public Schools has offered free breakfast in all schools — elementary, middle and high schools — since 2015 or 2016, said Susan Maffe, director of food and nutrition services. The breakfast programs are supported by grants from the Walmart Foundation and the American Association of School Administrators.

Meals for all public school students in Meriden are free under the community eligibility provision of the National School Lunch Program established in 2010.

The AASA “gave us this money to implement breakfast in different ways in the district, for example, all children had to go to the cafeteria to have breakfast and it could be inconvenient and not close to the bus or Uber or whatever so the kids just don’t go there,” Maffe said. “So some of the things that (AASA) found successful and they helped fund for us are this which we call take-out carts, so we have carts in strategic areas of the building so a student doesn’t have to go to the cafeteria.”

Maffe said all students are allowed to eat in class and there are more food choices at the middle and high school levels.

“These kids are more capable of making a choice independently and quickly, so if you can imagine 200 elementary school students trying to pick a breakfast and put their number in the pin pad in 10 minutes or less, that line has got to move, Maffe said.

Platt and Maloney High Schools have five redeemable vending machines at various locations throughout the buildings. Students can use the machines until 10 a.m., so if they aren’t hungry by breakfast time, they have time to grab something on the way to class.

“They can go to one of these vending machines and sell themselves breakfast,” Maffe said. “…Some are in the hallways, others in the cafeteria. They are located at key locations throughout the building.

In 2020, 77.1% of Meriden Public School students were eligible for free or reduced-price meals. In 2000, this percentage was 47%. Despite this percentage increase, Maffe noticed that the breakfast program was no longer as popular as it once was.

Breakfast attendance dropped nearly 20% from pre-pandemic attendance to post-pandemic attendance. The lowest turnout is in high schools, although vending machines are available at 10 a.m.

“The number of meals we serve pre-pandemic versus post-pandemic, they’re very different,” Maffe said. “…as many times as we say, we’re not even sure everyone recognizes that breakfast is free at all of our schools.”

Cheshire and Southington

Cheshire Public Schools is also offering free breakfast at all schools in the district, funded by the SMART scheme. Cheshire schools received $687,771. Erica Biagetti said that once funding runs out, families who are not eligible for free and reduced-price meals will have to start paying again.

In 2020, 15.7% of Cheshire students were eligible for free and reduced-price meals. In 2000, this percentage was 2.1%. Biagetti said the free and discounted program is funded by the US Department of Agriculture.

In August, Biagetti told the Record-Journal that if families who are eligible for free and reduced meals complete their applications as soon as possible, the district can make SMART funds last longer for families who are not eligible for free and reduced meals. .

“We are working hard to make sure families who qualify understand that if they complete their applications and receive USDA funding, it will help us help families who don’t qualify any longer,” said Biagetti. in August.

However, Biagetti said he has seen an increase in the number of participants in the program.

“We saw an increase in breakfast attendance, with meals being available for free,” Biagetti said.

Nya Welinsky, director of school food services at Southington Public Schools, said while the district has had a breakfast program for many years, it has evolved over the years, particularly due to the pandemic.

“It’s changed a lot in the last two years through the pandemic where the school closed and now we’re kind of going back to normal where it’s take-out,” Welinsky said.

The breakfast program is available free of charge at all schools. It is funded by the SMART program. Southington received $633,164 and Welinsky estimates the funds will run out in early December.

“We’ll be looking to do the 30-day community notice and probably start doing press releases at the end of the month, early November,” Welinsky said. “…We are now encouraging families to complete the free and reduced application in advance as funding will end.”

Welinsky said it’s great to be able to “relieve families” when it comes to providing free meals.

“We are thrilled to have been able to start the school year and offer two meals per student free of charge,” Welinsky said.

In 2020, Southington had 24% of its student population eligible for free or reduced price meals. In 2000, the number was 6.2%.

Welinsky said the district has seen a good number of students participate in the lunch program because it offered the seamless summer option, which combines features of the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program and of the summer food service program.

According to CT.gov, this reduces paperwork and administrative burden by making it easier for schools to feed students in low-income areas during the summer vacation period.

“We have a lot more students participating because it’s free,” Welinsky said.

[email protected]: @jessica_simms99