Former New York Giants running back Joe Morris shared a game plan with students at Martin Luther King Magnet School on Wednesday: Eat a healthy breakfast.
Morris, who played for the Giants from 1982-89 after a standout college career at Syracuse University, passed out breakfast in a third-grade classroom and talked to several other classes about how breakfast can give students a competitive edge.
This school year, the Schenectady City School District has implemented a Breakfast in the Classroom program that provides breakfast daily for every student in the district. The program is funded by a $300,000 grant through the American Association of School Administrators/Walmart Foundation School Breakfast Initiative.
Wednesday morning, students were offered a meal of cereal, milk and juice.
According to Scott Stowell, the district’s food service director, 32,000 breakfasts were served throughout the district in September 2012. This September, that number jumped to 92,000.
“I started as a kid in a breakfast program just like this,” Morris told a class of eighth-graders. “Each day, I went to school and had breakfast, and I was able to compete with my classmates because I could think. I wasn’t hungry. I was thinking about what I had to do at school. I wasn’t worried about eating.”
Morris detailed other benefits of eating a nutritious, calcium-rich breakfast, including healthy bones and increased energy. He also encouraged students to exercise daily and take their studies seriously.
“Football’s a game. They take the game away from you at some point, either if it’s high school, it’s college or it’s professional. They take the game away from you. Knowledge you get to keep forever,” he told them. “The things I know about football and the things I learned from my college professors I will always have, but it started in the same place you started — eating breakfast at a school.”
The Breakfast in the Classroom program has been well received and has run smoothly so far, Stowell said. There have been requests for more variety in the breakfasts and meetings are being held with students, parents and administrators to help fine-tune the program, he noted.
“Because it’s such a large scale, we can’t offer pancakes — syrup on the tables is not going to work — so there’s only so many things we can do to get everyone fed in a timely fashion,” Stowell said.
This month, new offerings will include a whole-wheat bagel and a whole-grain muffin.
Bethany Furgele, a seventh-grade health teacher at King Magnet School, said providing breakfast at school helps give students energy to get through the morning.
“As a health teacher, I would love to see more protein in the breakfast because it’s Cocoa Puffs and cookies, but it’s better than nothing, so I don’t judge it,” she said, adding that she would also like to see fruit added to the menu.
This year, all students in the district will also receive free, federally funded school lunches.