NORTH PROVIDENCE – The New England Dairy Council and Fuel Up to Play 60 presented the North Providence School Department with a grant of $ 22,414 to expand the school breakfast program in all schools for students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 year.
Devin McCourty, a New England Patriots goaltender, made his second visit to North Providence in the past year last Thursday to deliver the check to schools. Melinda Smith. McCourty was at Ricci Middle School last fall filming a Fuel Up to Play 60 promotional video with local students.
The district has implemented two breakfast programs to increase student participation.
• A universal breakfast program was implemented at Centredale Elementary School and Marieville Elementary School, providing all students with free in-class breakfast.
• At the remaining six schools, a take-out program provides free breakfast to qualifying students, and breakfast is also available to students for purchase. The pupils have time to eat at the start of the class.
School officials say research supports students who start the day with breakfast are more focused and ready to learn. In North Providence, the district is also seeing a drop in the number of children arriving late for school and school nurse visits, according to Smith.
The grant money was used to purchase serving carts and other equipment needed to implement the program in eight schools.
In high school, Principal Joseph Goho also recognized the benefits of expanding the breakfast program and worked with Aramark’s Food Services Manager, Monique Herard, to provide a smoothie bar in the cafeteria and a take-out trolley in the main foyer which allows students to have breakfast on their way to school. Goho reports that students are taking advantage of the program and the high school has seen an increase in breakfast attendance as well.
The expanded program was a joint effort between the school department, New England Dairy Council, Fuel Up to Play 60, Aramark Food Service, Rhode Island Department of Education, administrators and teachers.
According to Smith, the program is working well thanks to the extra efforts of school principals and teachers who addressed logistical issues associated with distribution, classroom meals, cleaning and recycling.
“The principals and teachers have done an incredible job to make the breakfast program work,” she said. “As a result, the district has seen a significant increase in breakfast attendance. “
Marieville Elementary was chosen as the school for the McCourty visit and the presentation of the check because of Principal Bruce Butler’s dedication to expanding federal meal programs, Smith said. Her school was the first in the district to implement a universal breakfast program and figure out how to make it work.
In addition to implementing the Universal Breakfast, the school offers a summer meal program and there are plans to implement the federal dinner program.
Smith and members of the school committee aim to prevent hunger from being a barrier to student learning.
McCourty answered many questions from students about healthy eating and exercise. He signed autographs and took numerous photos with students, teachers and other district leaders.
Smith said officials were especially grateful to Jane Vergnani, of the New England Dairy Council, and Monique Herard, of Aramark Food Service, who were instrumental in developing and funding programs in North Providence. She also gave special thanks to Karin Wetherill of the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition, who worked with Smith to link the district to the various agencies for funding and program development assistance.
Fuel Up to Play 60 is the nation’s largest in-school wellness program. Schools can find out more about the eligibility requirements and find an application on www.FuelUpToPlay60.com .