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Longview's school breakfast program helps students start day ready to learn

By Meredith Shamburger
March 7, 2017 at 11:17 p.m.
Updated March 7, 2017 at 11:17 p.m.

Students pick out breakfast items in the cafeteria Wednesday, March 1, 2017, at Ned E. Williams Elementary. (Les Hassell/News-Journal Photo)

Longview ISD serves about 2,700 breakfasts each day — and for school officials, that's 2,700 students who will be focused on learning, not on their stomachs.

So getting breakfast to children who might not have otherwise eaten it is a major focus for the district's child nutrition services department.

"Think about you or me," Longview ISD Child Nutrition Director Phyllis Dozier said. "If I'm in training or I'm at work or I'm somewhere and I get hungry, that's all I'm thinking about. So little children that get hungry, that's all they're thinking about."

National School Break Week is this week, lasting through Friday. The initiative encourages students to eat breakfast at school every day.

More than 1.5 million Texas students receive free or reduced breakfasts each day through the Texas Department of Agriculture's School Breakfast Program, which administers reimbursement funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nationally, the School Breakfast Program began as a two-year pilot program in 1966 for "nutritionally needy" children, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program was expanded over the next few years, becoming permanent in 1975.

Longview ISD, like other Texas schools, follows nutrition guidelines form the Texas Department of Agriculture. The focus for breakfast is lots of grains, dairy, fruits and lean protein.

Students eating breakfast in Longview schools have several options each day, Dozier said. The district offers cereal everyday because some children like cereal better than other things, Dozier said. Fruit also is an option, and three times a week the district will offer a hot breakfast. That includes fresh scrambled eggs, breakfast tacos, breakfast pizzas, sausages and gravy, muffins, kolaches, cheese toast, French toast and turkey bacon.

"One of the favorites, the all-time favorite, is pancake on a stick," Dozier said. "The kids love that."

The goal is to try to provide students with food that they'll like and that's also good for them, Dozier said.

"We do a breakfast burger, which we copied from Whataburger: the breakfast on a bun," she said. "It's the eggs and the cheese and the bun. The kids love it. But along with that, they have an offering of cereal and fruit. We do fresh fruit every day at breakfast and lunch. Occasionally, we do what's called a sidekick, which is 100 percent fruit, but it's frozen so the kids think they're getting something really good, but it's still healthy for them."

Longview ISD is trying to increase its breakfast participation, Dozier said. Right now, all elementary schools provide free breakfasts for all the students.

But although the district serves roughly 2,700 students districtwide at breakfast, it serves more than 5,400 at lunch. A lot of the disparity is just down to timing.

"A lot of it depends on the time the students get to school," Dozier said.

Dozier said the benefits of breakfast on a student's education are numerous. In addition to serving "brain food," helping students get a good breakfast also helps them focus on their schoolwork, Dozier said.

"We believe that we are improving test scores one meal at a time," she said.

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