Feeding students through grant

Published 3:21 pm Thursday, May 24, 2018

Jane Moore, the Buckingham County Middle School (BCMS) cafeteria manager, didn’t want to see the students she worked with each morning hungry.

Some students may be late for breakfast at the cafeteria. Some students may just be hungry, and the hours between the bell ringing the end of breakfast and lunchtime can stretch far.

So Moore took action. She heard about a grant from No Kid Hungry Virginia that allows students to have a filling and nutritious breakfast outside the cafeteria.

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BCMS was one of six schools to receive a grant for the organization’s Breakfast After the Bell program, which funds schools to provide mobile carts with breakfast foods for students outside of the cafeteria so they can have meals throughout the day, even if they miss breakfast in the cafeteria.

The middle school received the highest allocation among the six schools from No Kid Hungry at $5,120. 

“More than 300,000 children in Virginia live in families that struggle with hunger,” a news release from No Kid Hungry cited. “Research shows that hunger has long-term ramifications on children, including lower test scores, weaker attendance rates, and a higher risk of hospitalizations and chronic diseases.”

J.B. Heslip, director of facilities at Buckingham County Public Schools, said thanks to the grant, Moore will be able to bring a mobile cart, similar to one someone would see at a baseball game or from a street vendor, and students will be able to get foods including school-approved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, yogurt, cheese sticks, graham crackers, milk and juice.

He noted that purchasing food from the cart will be just like getting food from the cafeteria, with students eligible for free meals receiving the food from the mobile cart for free, and those eligible for reduced or regular prices will order similar to how they would at the cafeteria.

“It’s basically the same grab and go breakfast you would get coming through the line, only you get an opportunity to do it after the bell,” Heslip said.

For a student population where 66 percent of students are eligible for free meals, and 10 percent are eligible for reduced meals, Heslip said this program can make a huge difference.

Plus, Heslip and Middle School Principal Zane Harshman noted, teenage students are always hungry.

Heslip, former principal at BCMS, said Moore was the cafeteria manager when he worked at the school, and said it was her drive and compassion that made the program possible. He said it is a drive that Moore and the other cafeteria managers in the division share.

“The one thing that drives all of us is we’re always wanting to see the kids, making sure they are eating and they have every possibility to have something to eat,” Moore said. “That’s the main thing that drives all of us because we love our kids.”

She said numerous factors can prevent students from making the cafeteria for breakfast, including students socializing with other students and not being hungry during breakfast. Moore, who also works as a bus driver, said bus delays can prevent students from attending breakfast.

Heslip said the school has already purchased the cart, but expects it to be delivered in the next few weeks. He estimates that the program will take effect in the fall.

Harshman said the program will allow students to bring the meals to the classroom, but he said the school will have measures in place to reduce any sort of mess that could result.

“Another part of this grant is also being able to buy trash cans and trash can liners to classrooms, so they can actually go into class, maybe they don’t eat it in five minutes, they can eat it throughout class, and then have the receptacle with the liners to be able to limit the amount of mess in the classroom,” Harshman said.

“I think it’s a good step forward in being able to make sure our students are fed,” Harshman said. “Students that sit in a classroom hungry or undernourished cannot focus as well.”