For the first time, all Brunswick County elementary students can enjoy a free, daily breakfast at school. Last semester, kids qualified for either free, reduced or paid meals, depending on their families’ economic situations. Thanks to some state and federal reimbursement, as well as a unanimous School Board decision, the most important meal of the day is now an equal-opportunity affair. While few students took advantage of breakfast when school resumed last Thursday, WHQR’s Katie O’Reilly reports that the school district expects participation to take off this week.
Studies show that schoolchildren who eat breakfast daily perform better academically and socially, show higher attendance, visit the nurse’s office less often, and are less likely to become obese. This is according to Tina Ward, child nutrition director for Brunswick County Schools. And it’s why Ward made a case for universal free breakfast with the School Board. She says that under the previous arrangements, few children actually ate their breakfasts.
"For so long, a lot of people have looked at breakfast as, ‘Oh, that’s just for the poor kids.’ And it’s not. And some kids won’t come eat because they think that, and they don’t want that stigma that goes along with it. And so this will also remove that stigma. This is for all children; not just children who are economically disadvantaged."
If this new program is successful, Ward says she’s hopeful Brunswick County can extend free breakfast to all secondary school students next year. She says the district is also revamping its summer food service program, to better nourish children throughout the largely rural county when school’s no longer in session.