READING, Pa. - Homeroom is just a little "homier" in Reading elementary schools this month, as kids are now starting their days with a nutritious breakfast before they begin their class work.
Some Reading students used to eat breakfast in the cafeteria, but this year, the district made the decision to feed everyone in their homerooms under the district's new Breakfast in the Classroom program. Students pick up a meal from kiosks at the school entrances and eat it at their desks.
Kurt Myers, food service director with the Reading School District, was curious to see how the program would be received after receiving a wealth of information about the potential benefits.
"Breakfast in the Classroom was reported to increase attendance, increase attentiveness, cut down on tardiness, and behavioral issues," says Myers. "The first week, I was beginning to hear reports from the building principals about just such things."
Myers says more than twice as many children are now eating school breakfast as last year, adding the logistics have been easier than expected. He notes it was important to get everyone on board, from parents and teachers to the school food service and janitorial staff. They're planning a meeting in early October to assess the results so far.
The health and nutrition benefits of eating breakfast have long been touted in research. The Food Research and Action Center helped Reading schools with the transition to Breakfast in the Classroom, and according to Jessica Hewins, the center's child nutrition policy analyst, another important benefit of school breakfasts is enabling a child to ease into a busy school day.
"The kids have a few minutes at the start of the day to eat their breakfast and talk to their fellow students or their teacher," says Hewins. "It's a nice routine, and it really does help set the tone for the day and get the kids focused and in their seats."
The costs of Breakfast in the Classroom at Reading are covered by the federal School Breakfast Program and charitable grants.