Sixteen schools across the state, including four in the Flathead Valley, were awarded privately funded grants for on-site breakfast programs, the governor’s office announced Wednesday.
The grants, totaling $59,600, will assist schools in starting new breakfast programs or expanding existing ones in an effort to promote health and wellness for Montana’s students.
“Every Montana student should start the school day with a healthy breakfast that ensures they’re ready to learn. We are thrilled to see that so many Montana educators are recognizing the value of making breakfast a part of their school day, and that private businesses are stepping up to make this a reality for Montana students,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in the news release. “Breakfast at school is an important step we can take in our fight against childhood hunger.”
Among the schools selected for grant funds, Cornelius Hedges Elementary in Kalispell will receive $5,000; Elrod Elementary in Kalispell will receive $2,129; Lakeside Elementary in Somers will receive $4,998; and Columbia Falls High School will receive $1,000. Also, Browning Middle School is getting $3,924 and the high school is receiving $5,000. Troy Junior-Senior High is receiving $5,000.
All of these schools have pledged to adopt innovative approaches to school breakfast, such as serving breakfast in the classroom or offering a “grab-and-go” style that appeals to teens on the go, according to the governor’s office. These grants will help make healthy school breakfast accessible to the 7,000 Montana students who attend these schools, more than 60 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.
The grants were made possible through donations from the Walmart Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Share our Strength, AT&T and a personal donation from Harald Herrmann with Round It Up America.
Award funds are intended to help schools to pay for essential equipment and infrastructure such as grab-and-go kiosks or carts for delivering meals to classrooms; programs are expected to be self-sustaining thereafter. This is the second round of school breakfast grants. Last November, the Governor and First Lady awarded $55,000 to 20 Montana schools.
Bullock and his wife, Lisa, launched the Montana Breakfast after the Bell initiative to increase participation in school breakfast and make it a part of the school day by serving it after the school day begins. The initiative aims to ensure that all kids can have a healthy start to the day by helping schools adopt proven breakfast models that increase participation, such as breakfast in the classroom and grab n’ go breakfasts. One of the most effective ways to significantly boost school breakfast participation is to make it part of the school day, according to Bullock’s office.
“More kids are coming to school, and they are coming for breakfast,” said Nicole Heintzelman, a sixth grade teacher at West Elementary in Great Falls.
Earlier this year, Hedges became the first local school to begin serving breakfasts in the classrooms.
“Too many children are showing up at school hungry, and we know hungry children can’t learn,” Jennifer Montague, the Kalispell Food Service Director, said at the time. “A healthy breakfast helps students focus in the classroom and perform better. That’s why we offer a healthy breakfast every morning in our schools.”
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