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September 7, 2005
By DAVID R. MILLION Tulsa World Sports Writer
(Reprinted with Permission. This is not an endorsement.)
Chewing gum is prohibited in Union Public Schools elementary classrooms, but eating breakfast is encouraged.
School officials point to benefits of providing breakfast for students who don't eat before leaving home for school, so they will extend free and reduced-cost breakfast to all five of the district's Title I elementaries.
The Breakfast in a Bag program is in place at Clark and Briarglen. It will be rolled out in phases later this year at Boevers, Grove and McAuliffe, all Title I schools where 50 percent or more of students are enrolled in free- or reduced-lunch programs, said Gretchen Haas-Bethell, the district's communications director
The program offers those students breakfast to help them be more focused on learning throughout the morning, said Director of Child Nutrition Terry Wright.
Three quarters of the 550 Clark students qualify for free breakfasts and lunches. Plus, another 15 percent qualify for reduced price meals. Of the remaining 55 students who don't qualify for either, almost all purchase breakfast, said Theresa Kiger, principal at Clark.
The program is important because studies show that students who eat healthful breakfasts perform better in school, both academically and socially. Without the Breakfast in a Bag program, some students might never eat breakfast, Wright said.
Kiger supports the program because she sees its benefits.
"Students are performing better throughout the morning. Our nurse visits for upset stomachs have reduced dramatically. We are no longer keeping crackers in the nurse's office for those students with stomachaches because they have not eaten breakfast. We feel helping students make good choices is promoting a healthy living style for life," she said.
Aubrey Capshaw, teacher of a mixed class of first- and second-grade students, said she, too, supports the program.
"It helps the students' concentration. They do better throughout the day because they start the day out right with breakfast," she said.
Andrea Wiseman, one of Capshaw's students, approves of Breakfast in a Bag.
"I think it's really great because we get to eat, and school is great because I learn from it," she said.
Breakfast does not interfere with students' learning, Capshaw said.
"While they eat, the kids find mistakes in two sentences I write on the board, answer the question of the day and select the book they want to read in the afternoon," she said. Completion of those tasks and breakfast takes about 10 minutes.
Kiger said breakfast varies day to day with such items as egg and cheese biscuits, French toast, Pop Tarts, egg burrito, cereal, toast, oatmeal, fresh fruit, yogurt and fruit juice. Milk is served daily.
"Our daily routine begins with such a smooth start that we are gaining time. Time that was once lost in hallway disruptions, behavioral issues and cafeteria long lines has diminished," Kiger said.
"When we see children excited to go to school and immediately begin eating, we know we are meeting one of their basic needs. Our families support the program and feel it is a tremendous help for them in the morning. And that's what our district consistently looks for -- ways to better serve our families," she said.