DARKE COUNTY - Breakfasts served at Darke County schools are basically for all students, whether they are eligible for free and reduced meals or for those who pay full price.
A recent report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) showed that more low-income students are being served a nutritious breakfast at school compared to the previous year, but noted there is room for improvement with the state being ranked 25th overall for effectiveness in reaching low-income children.
This is the first year school cafeterias are mandated to serve the morning meals that reflect lower calories and carbohydrates. Most of the schools in the county offer breakfast free to those who qualify, charge 30 cents for those eligible for reduced meals and the full price for other students.
“We’re running about the same as last year,” said Tonya Wright, cafeteria manager for Greenville City Schools. “We’re introducing eight new items for breakfast this month to tell people, especially those on free meals, they can have a free breakfast.”
The numbers of the students who eat breakfast fluctuates.
“One week, we had 330, 338, 353 and 378 students eating breakfast in all five schools and numbers the next week included 325, 340 and 321,” Wright said. “It depends on what we’re having and what days. We were flooded at the beginning of school with free and reduced applications. We try to get them to eat.”
She said senior high averages 60 students at breakfast time; junior high, 44; South Middle, 47; East Intermediate, 76; Woodland Height, 151.
“There is an enrollment of 930 in the high school and 600 at Woodland Heights,” Wright said.
The new items introduced include mini pancakes, mini French toast, mini waffles, mini cinnies, fruit frudel and pizza on a bagel. Yogurt, she said, is a popular item and going over well.
“We have a varied menu,” she said. “We also serve omelets, a cocoa bar and peanut jelly graham bar. With the National Lunch Program, we have to follow guidelines. We have to serve two breads or two meats or one bread and one meat, half a cup of fruit, 8 ounces of milk (1 percent for white and fat-free for flavored, strawberry and chocolate). They can take three of four items and it’s considered a breakfast. Some days we have four items
Breakfast is served at the different city schools at different times. For each of the schools, breakfast is served 20 minutes before school goes in session.
Christy Garrett, manager of the cafeteria for Ansonia Local Schools, believes the count for students eating breaking there might be up a little bit.
“It might be because of the economy,” she said. “We serve roughly about 125 altogether in one day.”
Like Greenville, everybody at Ansonia is eligible with the price of the meal reflecting their eligibility.
“We serve anything things from cereal to mini pancakes, breakfast burritos and French toast,” she said. “One day, for example, we might serve cereal. The popular items are burritos and breakfast pizza.”
Breakfast for Ansonia High School students starts at 7:30 a.m. and at the elementary at 8:30 for 20 to 25 minutes each.
Lori Hunt, food service director at Bradford, reports that 44 percent of the students each breakfast there.
“Three-fourths of them are free and reduced meals,” said Hunt, who indicated the school has been serving breakfasts for the past three years.
She said the kitchen staff serves mainly serves cold breakfasts, with cereals, fresh fruit, whole grain doughnuts, 100 percent juice and milk, cocoa raisin bar and apple nut crunch bar, while one hot item is served each week. Those hot items are prepared the day before and re-warmed in the oven the next morning.
“We have very few students who eat breakfast at school,” said Sheryl Hedger at Tri-Village. “We have no high school students eating and few at the junior high. It’s mostly the elementary students.”
She said her popular items is Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.
“We have six different varieties of cereal, Hedger said. “All qualify for requirements for breakfast. I don’t serve hot breakfast because of labor costs.”
She said they have been keeping breakfast the same for several years, and noted the breakfast program has been running for five or six years.
“I think we’ve had an increase,” reported Kathy Leeper, cafeteria manager at Mississinawa Valley. “If a late bus comes in at 10 til 8, they can get bags and take them to their classes. That’s why it’s picked up.”
She said breakfast is served at 7:30 a.m. on trays, but changes to bags at 7:50 so the late students can still get their breakfast.
“We serve two different choices of milk - chocolate or white - five or six choices of cereal and toast,” Leeper said. “That stays the same every week.”
On Wednesday this week, 122 breakfasts were served and the day before, there were 137.
“It fluctuates,” she said. “We even fix breakfast for pre-school if they qualify.”
Carol Breckenridge, cafeteria manager at Arcanum, estimates the number of students eating breakfast there is up 15 or 20 from last year, but she’s not sure why.
“It’s probably because there are more free and reduced; I don’t know,” said Breckenridge, who said the cafeteria staff has served up to 50 or 60 students at its highest. “The higher part is junior high.”
Served at the school is one hot item while the rest are cold.
“We serve all cold every day and a different hot item every day,” she said. “Today we’re having egg/cheese omelet on a bun.”
Menu items at Arcanum also include pancakes, breakfast pizza, bagels, muffins, wheat Pop-Tart, cereal and cereal bars.
“I’d say we’ve stayed about the same as last year,” remarked Penny Fisher, a sub who was filling in Angie Weaver, cafeteria manager at Franklin Monroe, on Thursday. “Not a lot come in, mostly high school kids as opposed to the elementary.”
Serves there are box cereal, juice cheese stick, with milk as the cold breakfast and graham cracker and breakfast pizza for the hot meal.
“That’s it for now, as we’re counting calories and carbs,” said Fisher. “We used to offer Pop-Tarts and a breakfast sandwich, but did away with them.”
Janet Mendenhall, cafeteria manager for Versailles School, said that school does not offer the breakfast program.
“It’s a mandated program, and we don’t meet the numbers for the requirement,” she said. “We’re about the only one of the county schools that doesn’t offer it, but we make sure no kids go hungry. If need be, it’s truly taken care of.”
In a report released this week, the number of lower-income school children in Ohio receiving free or reduced-price lunches has decreased for the first time in six years.
Numbers from the Ohio Department of Education showed that nearly 820,000 youngsters get subsidized meals this school year. That’s 44.4 percent a slight decline from the 45.3 percent enrolled in the program last year.
The school-lunch program is funded by the federal government. It serves students considered to be economically disadvantaged based on their family income.
The Columbus Dispatch reported that the number of Ohio youngsters in the lunch program has increased by nearly 50 percent in the past decade as poverty has grown in the state.
Much of the increase has been seen in suburban districts, where middle-class families have lost jobs or seen their earnings decline.