More students in the Bowling Green Independent School District are eating breakfast and lunch at school, with the district revealing Monday that it saw participation jump by more than 11 percent this year.
For Dalla Emerson, BGISD’s director of food service operations, it means that more students are able to focus on school, rather than their growling stomachs. She shared her findings with the district’s school board Monday.
“If they are in school, they are worried about learning, not eating,” Emerson told the Daily News.
In August, the district began offering all students breakfast and lunch at no charge in hopes of boosting participation in its school meals program. At the time, about 60 percent of the district’s roughly 4,000 students were already receiving free or reduced-price meals based on household income.
Now it seems that move is paying off for the district, according to figures from its annual child nutrition report card.
According to district data, its schools saw an increase of roughly 11.5 percent in school breakfast and lunch participation, amounting to an average of 649 additional meals per day this school year.
Each school day, the district’s schools serve an average of 6,479 meals to 4,264 students, with more than 850 students eating three meals a day at their school, according to the report. Additionally, almost 20 percent of the produce the district purchases is locally grown.
In her report, Emerson also announced that Bowling Green Junior High School has been awarded a $5,000 grant through the Elevate the Plate Challenge. BGISD’s food service department plans to use the money to buy an open cooler to offer students pre-made salads, smoothies and other grab-and-go favorites to streamline the lunch experience at the district’s middle school.
Emerson said the meals are sorely needed in the district’s schools. She recalled a recent experience, relayed to her by one of her colleagues, about a student found to be sobbing over an apple that had fallen out of reach. When the employee asked why the student was upset, he or she said it was the only opportunity to eat supper.
“It speaks to the true need that we have in our district that is not visible to most people,” Emerson told the Daily News, adding that staff managed to recover the apple for the child. “These stories happen regularly and it just reaffirms the fact that what we’re doing matters.”