Elected Officials Observe Breakfast in the Classroom Program at Mapleshade Elementary

Representatives hand out breakfast to students
Mapleshade Elementary School began a BIC program in the fall of 2016. In May 2017, the school served 1,755 breakfasts.

Project Bread, the leading statewide anti-hunger organization in Massachusetts, was joined by State Representative Angelo Puppolo, Jr., State Representative Brian Ashe, and Town Manager Denise Menard at Mapleshade Elementary School on Wednesday. Members of the school committee were also on hand to observe the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program in Mrs. Plahna’s third grade class and to celebrate a successful inaugural year of offering breakfast as part of the instructional day.

Prior to this school year, Mapleshade Elementary did not offer breakfast. In August of 2016, Project Bread’s Child Nutrition Outreach Coordinator Rosemarie Caward reached out to Food Service Director, Lori Pahl, about launching a breakfast program during the 2016-2017 school year. Caward presented the different breakfast models to Pahl and her team at Mapleshade, including Principal Michael Fredette, Superintendent Gordon Smith, and Mapleshade teachers. Once Mapleshade decided to implement BIC, Caward consulted throughout the implementation process.

“We felt it would be best to allow the children to keep their morning schedule and opt to have their breakfast right in the classroom as a community,” said Pahl. “Utilizing the small classroom setting eliminates the possible stigma for those who may need the assistance.”

Both Representatives helped hand out breakfast to students on Wednesday morning and offered remarks about the school breakfast program. While the students were enjoying breakfast, Ms. Menard read a few pages from Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Things You Can Do that are Good for You.

Class poses for picture with representatives

“If you don’t have [breakfast] at home, or if you don’t have time to have breakfast at home, you can come here and have it, and I think that’s important,” said Representative Puppolo. “Breakfast is an important part of the day. Certainly the most important meal of the day, as they say.”

Representative Ashe added, “[Breakfast] gives you your nutrition. It gives you energy. It gives you strength to get through the day, so you can do all your activities here at school. You can study, and learn, and go on through the day, and you’re not tired.”

For students who do not have the time, appetite, or household income necessary to eat before arriving at school, school breakfast provides an excellent opportunity to start the day with a healthy morning meal. Bus schedules, limited time, and class distance from the cafeteria can all act as barriers to participation in the school breakfast program. Additionally, there is often a stigma associated with eating school breakfast in the cafeteria. Offering breakfast in the classroom eliminates many of these barriers and allows more students to access this critical meal so that they start the school day ready to learn.

Representatives Puppolo and Ashe are champions of school breakfast, recently signing onto a bill that would expand the public school breakfast program in Massachusetts. This proposed legislation, co-sponsored by State Representative Aaron Vega and State Senator Sal DiDomenico, would require all Massachusetts public K-12 schools with 60% or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program to offer breakfast after the instructional day begins. Offering breakfast after instructional time begins is one of the best ways to increase participation in the program and make sure that more students are starting their days off with a healthy meal. Project Bread is a part of Rise and Shine Massachusetts, a coalition of organizations and school districts that support the passage of this important child nutrition legislation.

Currently 34% of students at Mapleshade Elementary School are eligible for free and reduced-priced meals, and prior to this year none of those students were able to eat breakfast at school. Last month, 1,755 breakfasts were served and 50% of the students eligible for free or reduced priced school meals ate breakfast in school.

“Project Bread has seen tremendous growth in student participation in breakfast programs across the state, with Massachusetts now ranking second in the nation for expansion of breakfast access,” said Maura Ackerman, Project Bread’s Assistant Director of Programs. “We are proud to be working alongside incredible school partners like Mapleshade to implement new breakfast programs and deploy innovative strategies that ensure that all students – regardless of means – receive the food they need to fuel healthy growth and development.”

The Child Nutrition Outreach team at Project Bread continues to work with Food Service Director Pahl to support her work district-wide to ensure that more students in East Longmeadow Public Schools are now starting their day off with the nutritious meals they need to succeed both in school and beyond.