By Kim West
Students at four county schools will receive a free breakfast delivered to their desks through a meals program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Blue Springs, Owens, Piney Chapel elementary schools and Tanner High School will participate in the county’s pilot version of Breakfast in the Classroom, allowing students to dig into food at their desks and start the school day with a meal considered vital by nutrition experts.
The program is designed to encourage school systems to add the free meals while also helping to boost academic performance and reduce behavioral issues.
Teresa Rogers, director of the child nutrition program for Limestone County Schools, said during Tuesday’s school board meeting the county is launching the initiative on Feb. 3.
She said each of the schools approved by the USDA this spring have about 70 percent or more of its students eligible for federal free or reduced meals.
Grades K-5 at Tanner will receive the delivered breakfast, which will include pre-packaged items, juice and milk, while grades 6-12 will eat in the cafeteria.
Limestone Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk said every student at the participating schools would receive the free breakfast.
“Every child, regardless of socioeconomic background, will get it,” Sisk said during the meeting.
Chief School Finance Officer Ann Swanner said after the meeting the program provides another source of income for a school system through federal meal reimbursements, which are measured through the number of students receiving the free breakfast daily.
Limestone school officials said Athens has two schools already participating and Decatur City Schools started the program in August. Within the first 36 days, meals served at breakfast in Decatur swelled by 24,092, or an increase of about $40,000.