Dist. 203 continuing breakfast test at four schools

  • Students will be able to buy breakfast at Mill Street and Scott elementaries and Jefferson and Madison junior highs throughout the next school year in Naperville Unit District 203.

    Students will be able to buy breakfast at Mill Street and Scott elementaries and Jefferson and Madison junior highs throughout the next school year in Naperville Unit District 203. Getty Images

 
 
Posted8/7/2019 5:30 AM

Naperville Unit District 203 is extending a test of breakfast service at four schools, hoping to help feed students who otherwise might skip their morning meals.

Students will be able to buy breakfast at Mill Street and Scott elementaries and Jefferson and Madison junior highs throughout the year under a $58,100 extension to a test the district conducted for 14 weeks last year. The move comes as the district's population of students eligible for free or reduced lunch has risen during the past two decades to roughly one in six of its 16,600 students.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

During the breakfast testing period last year, an average of 209 students bought a hot or cold meal each day across the four schools. At Mill Street and Scott, roughly one-third of students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch participated and ate breakfast each day, leading officials to believe the availability of the option should continue.

"We know that daily breakfast is strongly correlated to decreased behavior issues in school and increased overall academic success," said Chuck Freundt, assistant superintendent for elementary education.

The district spent $19,143 to provide breakfasts during the trial run, charging students $1.50 for the meal at the junior highs or $1.40 at the elementary schools. Those eligible for free or reduced lunch got the same benefits at breakfast.

While smaller percentages of students eligible for free or reduced lunch bought breakfast at the junior highs -- 17% at Jefferson and 9% at Madison -- students, teachers and parents all responded favorably to the meal's availability in a district survey.

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"Whether they loved it or kind of, sort of loved it, we had a large majority of our students in grades three through eight believe we should continue to serve breakfast as an option," Freundt said.

School board members said they want more data about how eating breakfast helps students who buy the meal at school in terms of behavior and academics.

The district plans to review the standardized test scores of students who buy breakfast consistently to determine if the food helps their performance, said Patrick Nolten, assistant superintendent for assessment and accountability.

Breakfast already is for sale at Naperville Central and Naperville North high schools, but the district will not yet offer it at the rest of its elementaries and junior highs unless officials decide to include breakfast as part of bids for a new food service contract to begin in July 2020.

If officials choose to expand breakfast to all 21 schools, the district would be eligible for the same state and federal reimbursement rates it receives for lunch service, said Melanie Brown, director of finance and support services.

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