Often touted as the “most important meal of the day,” breakfast is frequently overlooked in favor of more sleep or hurried morning routines. The Hermiston School District hopes to change that and has started offering free breakfast to all students this year.
The district contracts with Chartwells, a catering service, for all its meals. Chartwells’ new director, David Busch, hopes that more students will take advantage of the opportunity.
“We saw a great need for students,” Busch said. “Every child deserves the opportunity to learn without a grumbling stomach, or wondering when lunch is.”
Breakfast is available at all schools, and to all students regardless of economic status.
“The district has always had free breakfast, depending on the need of individual students,” he said.
But Busch said some students have been hesitant to eat school-offered meals, even if they do qualify.
“A lot of kids don’t participate because of peer pressure, or they want to spend time with their friends,” he said. “Now, we’ve created an environment where everyone can still be together and get something in their stomachs.”
He said currently about 22 percent of the district’s students take advantage of the free breakfast program and he hopes to see at least a 10 percent increase in participation this year.
“If we went to 50 percent, I’d be so pleased,” he said.
Chartwells offers a different main morning meal each day, such as biscuits and sausage with gravy, egg-and-cheese burritos, scrambled egg pizzas or cinnamon oatmeal. Students can also get cereal, milk and fruit every day.
Katie Saul, Hermiston School District’s director of business services, said some funding for meals comes from the state and the rest is covered by the district’s contract with Chartwells.
“It’s built into the contract price,” Saul said.
Busch said Chartwells is also looking into some other new meal programs for the district.
“At the high school we’ll be implementing a student choice program,” he said. Every few months, Chartwells will have a tasting table at the high school with several different types of food. Students can try the different meals and vote for the ones they’d like to have served at lunch.
“Because they choose meals, we’re hoping for greater participation,” Busch said. He said he hopes to encourage students to eat on campus, instead of going to nearby convenience stores for lunch.
“We can give better nutritional choices,” he said.