District 833 schools see low breakfast turnout
Whether you believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day, District 833 does and it will continue to serve breakfast to its students.
Even though students have the option to participate in breakfast, Nutrition Services director Barb Osthus said very few students are participating.
"If you look at breakfast district wide, our participation is very, very low and I don't know why that is except that parents have said that it is their responsibility to make sure their kids have a healthy breakfast before school," she said. "I don't know if that's the attitude of many of our parents in the district."
In recent weeks, Osthus and Nutrition Services considered discontinuing breakfast service at Woodbury and Cottage Grove middle schools because of low participation -- the first few months of the year averaged seven or eight meals a day.
However, since the end of November, the numbers of breakfasts served has risen to 17 or 18 per day.
"We're thinking the colder weather may be getting more kids to participate," Osthus said.
After some discussions with the building principals, Osthus said she decided to continue breakfast because of the need.
"It's really hard because you hear that kids really need breakfast but then they don't participate," she said.
An average middle school breakfast would include a main item that could be pancakes, eggs or other dishes, cereal, fruit or yogurt, and juice or milk.
District 833 has offered breakfast to students for about the last 10 years, but participation always has been low.
In the elementary schools, Osthus said they began offering breakfast because of the students who come early in the morning for Kids Club.
The number of breakfasts at the high schools are somewhat higher than at the middle schools, since high school students are often at school earlier.
Osthus said there are multiple factors that contribute to the low participation numbers at the middle schools -- parents providing breakfast, school start times and bus arrival times, and 10 a.m. lunch breaks.
"That's a really early lunch," Osthus said. "Our staff is very crunched at those middle schools because it's really hard to prepare breakfast, to serve breakfast, to clean up breakfast since that interferes with lunchtime preparation."
Those who do take advantage of breakfast at the middle schools range from students who are at school early for academic reasons to students who need a breakfast because they don't get it at home.
"I'm surprised that the number of breakfasts have not increased this year because of the economy," Osthus said.
Osthus said one of the ways to combat the low breakfast participation would be to have later start times for schools so that buses have more time to get students to school in time for breakfast, or Osthus said they could even look at offering breakfast during classes.
Osthus said the district will continue to offer breakfast to students as long as there is a need for it, but she hopes that participation increases.
"Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, but it's somehow the hardest one for us to take time for," she said. "You should have breakfast every day and kids need that nutrition."
For more information on District 833 breakfast visit the Nutrition Services Web site at http://www.sowashco.k12.mn.us/ss/food/public/menus.htm.