In a June 16, 2018 Cape Cod Times article, Geoff Spillane reports on a breakfast program implemented in April of 2017 at the Horace Mann Charter School which has become the "gold standard" at high-poverty schools statewide.
Taking a community approach to hunger
Cape Cod Times
By Geoff Spillane
June 16, 2018
HYANNIS — A Hyannis school is being praised as a “gold standard” for a breakfast program that anti-hunger advocates want implemented at high-poverty schools statewide.
A delegation from the Greater Boston Food Bank and Project Bread joined state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, and state Rep. William Crocker, R-Centerville, to observe Barnstable Community Horace Mann Charter Public School’s “Breakfast After the Bell” program on Friday morning.
The program, implemented in April 2017 after the school received a grant from the Eos Foundation to cover start- up costs and equipment, provides a free, nutritious breakfast to all 304 K-3 students after they arrive in their homerooms every morning.
The program is now self-sustaining through meal reimbursements provided by the USDA School Breakfast Program.
The visit comes as legislation is pending on Beacon Hill that would mandate the program, which provides breakfast after the start of the instructional day, be instituted at all schools in the Commonwealth where at least 60 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals.
The bill is currently with the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and is facing a beat-the-clock scenario for passage by the end of the current legislative session on July 31.
“We are cautiously optimistic,” said Catherine Drennan, senior manager of public affairs for the Greater Boston Food Bank, about the legislation.
The Greater Boston Food Bank leads the Rise & Shine Massachusetts coalition of organizations supporting the legislation and heralding the significant impacts the program has on school attendance, test scores and health outcomes.
Passage of the bill would expand the program to more than 650 schools in the Bay State. In addition to the Barnstable Horace Mann and Hyannis West Elementary School, which has been a program participant for several years, nearly 200 schools in the state already administer the program.
Locally, the Ezra H. Baker and Marguerite E. Small Schools in the Dennis-Yarmouth School District and the Provincetown School District would qualify for the program under the new legislation if passed.
The effort certainly has support from local legislators Cyr and Crocker.
“This is a worthwhile program,” Crocker said. “People don’t view Cape Cod as a place where these programs are needed, but the need is here. If you’re hungry, you can’t concentrate and can’t learn.”
Cyr said he and his office would reach out to fellow legislators to express support and urge passage of the bill before the legislative session ends.
On Friday morning it was clear that “Breakfast after the Bell” program is a big success at the Horace Mann School.
7/1/2018 Taking a community approach to hunger
School Principal Sheila Kukstis and David Badot, director of child nutrition for the Barnstable Public Schools, led a tour of the school to showcase the program and how it unfolds every day.
Like a well-oiled machine, students in the before-school care program start delivering breakfasts to the classrooms at 8 a.m. before the rest of the student body arrives at 8:45.
On this day, there was yogurt, muffins, bananas, cheese sticks, milk and juices awaiting the children as they arrived at their desks.
A committee composed of parents, faculty and other school personnel meet regularly to discuss and plan out the program.
“I’m very impressed with the community approach,” said Maura Ackerman, director of the Child Nutrition Outreach Program at Project Bread. “We need to replicate this program.”
“They love muffin, bagels and Frosted Flakes,” said Badot, who noted, when possible, he likes offer a hot food selection, too, and always encourages the kids to drink milk.
The food that is not eaten during breakfast goes into a “share basket” in each classroom, allowing students to partake in a snack during the day if they feel hungry.
Children often take leftover food with them when they leave school at the end of the day. Those most in need — approximately 30 students — also receive a bag of food, provided by Cape Kid Meals, on Friday to tide them over during the weekend.
While the end of the school year — this Wednesday at the Horace Mann school — is typically a happy time for children, Kukstis says she notices behavior changes and anxiety in some students as they start to worry about eating during the summer.
“They don’t know where their food is going to come from,” she said.
That’s where Ackerman comes in. She is leading a statewide push to get as many children as possible registered for summer meals programs, including a kickoff event today to promote activities on the Cape.
Several organizations will be providing information about their free local “Summer Eats” program throughout the Cape from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hyannis Youth & Community Center. Lunch will be served at 11:45 a.m.