Lincoln Elementary School on Monday started serving breakfast to students in their classrooms in a bid to boost the number of students taking advantage of the school's free breakfast offering.
The school had the lowest number of students taking advantage of the free breakfast program offered at all of the district's elementary schools. While most schools in the district had already been serving breakfast to students once they settle into their classrooms, Lincoln was serving breakfast to students as they waited to be allowed into their classes.
The transition to breakfast served in the classroom – every morning – took effect Monday.
“Increasing meal participation is our number one priority right now,” Schenectady school district food service manager Elaine Reynolds said during a presentation to the school board last week.
Lincoln Elementary School had “not been as successful” with participation in the breakfast program, district finance director Kimberly Lewis said at the board presentation last week. The elementary school registered the lowest breakfast participation of the district's 11 elementary schools in both October and January.
In January, fewer than 40 percent of the school's students participated in the free breakfast program – even as nearly 80 percent of the school's students participated in the lunch program. All of the district's other elementary schools had at least half of its students participating in the breakfast program in January.
The middle schools and high school are also looking for ways to improve their breakfast numbers, encouraging students to grab breakfast on their way to class, even if they are running late. And the district food program is looking to start a pilot program to serve warm breakfasts in class.
“It's not a nice-to-have thing,” Superintendent Larry Spring said at the meeting. “You really need to stop and grab your breakfast.”
District officials more broadly are looking to increase the number of students who get their meals from among district-provided options. Schenectady is part of the federal community eligibility provision, allowing all of its students to qualify for free breakfast and lunch; the district gets reimbursed from the federal government for all meals served to students.
Working with food service contractor Sodexo – which started as the district's new provider this school year – officials are conducting student surveys and focus groups in an effort to offer students more of the meals they want.
“Increasing participation is certainly on our forefront,” Paula Presley, Sodexo's general manager for Schenectady, said at last week's school board meeting.