HAMLET — A new breakfast program has already netted Richmond County Schools $120,000 in revenue more than at the same time last year, according to a report given to the Richmond County School Board on Thursday.
Last year, Child Nutrition Director Lois Hood was looking for a way to increase participation in the system’s breakfast offerings. She said that, for many students, their time between getting off the bus and the beginning of class was spent playing or socializing instead of taking advantage of the free breakfast.
So she decided to bring breakfast to the classrooms just before the beginning of instructional time based on the model put forth under No Kid Hungry. Since September, cafeteria workers have been carting out the breakfast food to classes, typically serving about 10 minutes before 8 a.m. Hood said the workers have gotten it to a “science” where they can get in a classroom, serve food to those who are interested, swipe their ID cards, and get out without disrupting class time.
“I am a firm believer that hungry kids cannot learn,” Hood told the board. “If they’re given the opportunity to start off with a nutritious breakfast it opens up their mind to be able to learn throughout the day.”
In an interview Friday, Hood emphasized that for some kids, this free breakfast is the only meal they get.
Comparing September 2018 with September 2019, the breakfast in the classroom program increased revenue by $55,217.98, according to Hood. Comparing October 2018 to October 2019, revenue is up by $78,677.34. That money is earned by the students swiping their ID cards and the system then files a claim with the federal government who reimburses them based on the usage of the program.
Of the monthly funds raised through RCS’ Child Nutrition Services, 13.49% goes to the system and is divided up among the schools to support educational supplies, staff or other needs, Hood explained.
Hood said she worked last year to try to draw support for the program by attending attended several meetings between Richmond County’s principals. Initially, concerns were that there would be a build up of trash and that it would take away from instructional time.
Dr. Jeff Maples, superintendent of RCS, attended a No Kid Hungry conference and came to support the classroom breakfasts, which Hood said helped make the negotiations smoother with the principals. Hood said instructional time has not been impacted and, to avoid the concern of trash, the cafeteria workers provide trash bags for the kids and custodians come in behind them.
Vice Chairman Bobbie Sue Ormsby raised the concern of overworking the workers, but Hood said they see the benefits and haven’t had a problem with it.