By Angelo Parlove
Larry D’Andrea, the new food service director at Saline Area Schools, wants to make sure the district improves their effort to make breakfast available to students next school year.
“Breakfast is very important for students. Students who eat school breakfast have higher test scores, higher attendance,” D’Andrea said. “It’s the most important meal of the day.”
After several years of limited breakfast offerings, the district began serving breakfast at all four elementary building during the 2015-2016 school year. With breakfast options in each elementary school that year, participation in the program jumped from 35 average daily meals in the beginning to 87 meals served each morning.
In 2016-2017, Saline Area Schools continued the breakfast program, and sales increased 46 percent in the elementary schools. Across the district, breakfast sales jumped 47 percent.
“It doesn’t seem like a lot, but of our free and reduced population, the numbers are very low,” D’Andrea said. “And those are the children where it’s most important to get them to eat the school breakfast, because they’re the ones most likely to be hungry.”
“We are going to do a better job this year of making sure that those parents and students know it is available,” D’Andrea added.
One problem might be simply logistics: “We have some issues with logistics of where the children are and where the breakfast is served,” said D’Andrea, who took over the helm as the food service director in February 2017.
At schools like Pleasant Ridge Elementary, where the children line up in the morning where breakfast is served, the numbers are 75 percent higher than all the other schools. A solution to reach the kids then – take the food closer.
The district will introduce a breakfast cart with healthy options next year, in which the food can be brought to where the kids are before the school day starts. “It’s important we’re closer to the students,” D’Andrea said.
The district will also continue to run monthly promotions to further increase participation, as well as utilize a social media campaign to increase sales at the middle and high schools.
At their study session in the Heritage School cafeteria June 27, the board of education approved the continuation of the breakfast program for the 2017-2018 school year. A cold breakfast option will again be offered two days a week, while a hot breakfast will be served the other three days. The prices will remain the same: $1.70 for a meal, $0.50 for milk.