Teachers at 17 Mesa Unified School District campuses served up announcements, class lists and breakfast on Wednesday morning, the first day of the new school year.
The district’s Breakfast in the Classroom program was expanded this year, from two schools to 17, including one junior high.
It is a federally funded program that provides a meal during the first 10 minutes of class each day. More than 11,000 breakfasts were served in classrooms. Another 7,500 Mesa Unified students got breakfast through other schools’ cafeterias.
At Redbird Elementary School, the 34 sixth-graders in Damon Timm’s class received a prepackaged waffle, a banana and a milk.
“It’s cool,” said 12-year-old James Clark. After James crushed up his empty milk carton and threw away the bag from the waffle, he took advantage of an offer for a second serving.
Some of the kids — like James — chugged down their food. Others were a little more shy. Some did not eat — at least not at first.
“Research shows students that have a full tummy do better in school,” principal Nicholas Parker said before entering Timm’s classroom. In the past, breakfast was available in the school’s cafeteria in the morning, but sometimes students would skip it to go play.
This program allows the students to get focused on learning while the teacher takes attendance and announcements are read, Parker said.
“As we get better at it, it will become more efficient,” he added.
Debbie Nelson, the school’s cafeteria manager, said 650 meals were prepared for Redbird students Wednesday. Last year, the school served up 250 classroom breakfasts for kindergartners and first-graders as part of a pilot program.
“I think they’re onto a much better start,” Nelson said about the students she watched from the door into Timm’s room. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. They think it’s great.”
Mesa Unified and Apache Junction Unified school districts started class Wednesday.
Mesa expects about 67,750 students to enroll this school year.