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First lady launches breakfast program

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Kristin Cooper, first lady of North Carolina, laughs as she responds to a question from a North Edgecombe High School student Monday while visiting the high school as a part of National School Breakfast Week.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

LEGGETT — The first lady of North Carolina on Monday visited North Edgecombe High School to launch the new Breakfast After the Bell programs in some Edgecombe County Public Schools during National School Breakfast Week.

Three schools in the district launched new Breakfast After the Bell programs on Monday, according to a press release from Edgecombe County Public Schools. Bulluck Elementary and Carver Elementary schools now offer Grab and Go breakfasts where students pick up packaged breakfasts from convenient mobile service carts in high-traffic areas. North Edgecombe High School began a “Second Chance Breakfast” program that begins after first period classes are over.

“This is the first day for the Second Chance Breakfast and we wanted to see how that works here,” Kristin Cooper said as she toured the school after watching students participate in the program. “We have been looking at innovative ways to provide breakfast all over the state. Sometimes the before-school model misses a lot of kids — particularly if they have an early start time or if they have to be late or just want to hang out with their friends. So this gives them a second chance to have something in their stomach before lunch.”

At North Edgecombe High School, a breakfast cart was set up in the school cafeteria. Students could grab a biscuit, cereal, fruit or yogurt between classes if they missed their first chance at breakfast.

“I think this helps make a real difference in their academic performance and with behavior issues. We have visited other schools with this program and we have heard good things about this program at other places it has been done. Everybody gets to set this up in their own way, and the kiosk approach seems to really work well with the older kids,” Cooper said.

Funding for the Breakfast after the Bell program that is being implemented in select schools across the state is provided through the No Kid Hungry program and The Dairy Alliance.

Valerie Bridges, superintendent of Edgecombe County Public Schools, said she is thrilled that Edgecombe County was selected by the governor’s office as one of the counties to receive a grant for the program.

“I think it is wonderful. Our child nutrition director went to a workshop and completed a grant application concerning the Second Chance Breakfast. It had been tried in some other schools and they were talking about how it affected kids. Everybody in our school district qualifies for free meals in school, and this is a great way to encourage them to take advantage of the breakfast we offer,” Bridges said.

Ruth McDowell, who serves not only as the director of child nutrition for Edgecombe County Public Schools but was also selected as the Child Nutrition Director of the Year for the state of North Carolina, also was present on Monday to oversee the rollout of the new program.

“We received a grant from the governor’s office to incorporate the Second Chance Breakfast, which gives kids more of an opportunity to eat breakfast in the morning. I decided to do the Second Chance Breakfast model at the high school level because research has shown that a lot of high school students don’t get hungry that early in the morning. We only had about 80 kids come for breakfast this morning — but as you can see, a lot of kids are interested in coming for this Second Chance Breakfast,” McDowell said, as she pointed to the line of students choosing food from the breakfast cart.

McDowell said she and her staff are taking note of what students are eating during the Second Chance Breakfast.

“The food is basically the same thing offered at the first breakfast, but we do give them another option of yogurt. We don’t offer that at the first breakfast because hardly anyone selects it, but we had about are finding that a lot of students are selecting yogurt at the second breakfast instead of the the cereal and biscuits we offer, so this is a learning experience for us, too,” McDowell said.

One of the reasons for the focus on innovative breakfast options comes as the result of recent research released by the Food Research & Action Center, a national anti-hunger advocacy group. According to their School Breakfast Scorecard, 397,039 low-income children in North Carolina participated in the national School Breakfast Program on an average school day in 2017-18, a decrease of 1.6 percent over the previous year. The report also found that 58.2 percent of low-income children in North Carolina ate school breakfast for every 100 that received free or reduced-price school lunch during the 2017-18 school year.

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