REGION 4— District elementary schools have begun offering breakfast to students in a grant-funded program that is expected to continue in future school years. The program began at the Chester and Deep River elementary schools on March 10, and started at Essex Elementary School this week.
Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said Director of Food Services Thomas Peterlik determined there was federal funding available for a school breakfast program, and later secured nearly $3,000 in grant funds even though the current school year is now entering its final months. She said the program started first at the Chester and Deep River schools because those schools have a higher number of students received free or reduced price school lunches under federal guidelines, though school officials quickly determined there would be sufficient funding to extend the program to Essex Elementary School.
Levy said the program should be a benefit for both students and working parents. She noted that numerous studies have confirmed that children learn better if they have eaten breakfast, while adding the program would offer “another option for parents.”
Peterlik said this week he decided to keep the breakfast options simple in order to begin the program as quickly as possible and utilize the funding available for the current school year. Students are offered a brown bag breakfast before the start of classes at a price of $1.25. The breakfast includes fresh fruit and milk each day, while other items vary from cereal to yogurt, pastries, or bagels with cream cheese.
Peterlik said student response over the past two weeks indicates the program would be a success. He said average daily participation since March 10 has been 39 students for Deep River and 29 students for Chester, with at least 27 students taking breakfast each day this week as the program was rolled out for Essex Elementary School. The district’s two secondary schools, John Winthrop Middle School and Valley Regional High School, had already offered breakfast for students and staff.