Kids often come to school hungry.
For them, schools offer a breakfast program, to help ensure they get their day started off on the right foot.
However there are times when those kids don’t get to school on time, for any number of reasons, and as a result they go to class distracted because they have not had anything to eat.
The Redwood Area School District recognized that reality, and as a result opted to start the second chance breakfast program for Redwood Valley Middle School students.
“This is our third year of having second chance breakfast,” said Laurie Milbrandt, Taher, Inc. Food Service program director.
Milbrandt said the program is offered every school day for students in Grades 5-8, with the fifth and sixth graders served at 8:40 a.m. and the seventh and eighth graders served at 9:20 a.m.
The program has been successful, said Milbrandt, adding it has grown each year, and this year she is estimating that 160-plus students are taking advantage of it each day.
With just over 300 students in the middle school, that means more than half of the students are participating in the second chance breakfast.
Programs like the one being offered in the local school district are not unique, as many other districts have implemented them.
In fact, it was previous middle-school administrator Nicole Lydick who approached Milbrandt with the idea after learning about it at a conference.
“I thought it was a great idea, and so we gave it a try,” said Milbrandt.
This year the school’s second chance breakfast program was enhanced through a grant it received from the Super Bowl Legacy Fund and the Midwest Dairy Council.
According to Scott LeSage, Redwood Area School District director of finance, the district received $10,000, which was used to purchase two carts that are placed in the main hallways and are used to serve the food to students.
“The grant was to be used for specific things to improve or expand school breakfast outside of the cafeteria,” said LeSage, adding the “Fuel Up to Play 60” carts were purchased with the intent of helping to make the program more efficient. “We were one of 52 schools to receive a grant.”
Bonnie Hultquist, one of the Taher Food Service employees who helps serve the second chance breakfast, said the carts are a great asset for the program and do help things run much more smoothly.
Milbrandt said the grab-and-go breakfast offers students a nutritious alternative to the hot breakfast the school also offers, adding it includes a muffin, nutri-grain bar or sandwich, as well as fruit and juice or milk. What is offered meets the food guidelines established at the federal level.
“We allow the students to select three items,” Milbrandt said.
Amanda Pederson, current RVMS principal, said a similar program had been implemented in Marshall where she was working prior to coming to Redwood Falls, adding she sees the benefit of the program and has heard from teachers who think it is making a difference, too.
The students are able to take what they receive through the program back to their classrooms and enjoy it while they continue their studies. The food offered is intentionally selected to avoid making messes in classrooms to make it as convenient as possible for teachers and the students.
When the time arrived, the students came from their grade-level pods, got in line and selected what they wanted to eat. Within a few minutes there was a line at each of the carts demonstrating student interest in the program.
Each student selects their items and then enters their individual student code for their meal account. In a matter of moments they are enjoying the most important meal of the day.
Similar to other food programs, those who fall under the free and reduced meal program also are eligible for the second chance breakfast, which is open to all students at RVMS.
The students are told a day in advance what will be served during the second chance breakfast, and Milbrandt said there are days when the line is a little longer because of what is being served.
Yet, the program is consistently seeing good numbers each day, she added.
LeSage and Pederson agreed that the local school district’s food program is doing a good job in ensuring the students are receiving nutritious meals each day whether it is in the cafeteria or through the second chance program, and the grant the school district received is making to possible for more students to have a good start to their day.