Students in five Durham public schools will receive free breakfast in their classrooms this fall, thanks to a grant from United Way of the Greater Triangle.
Durham Public Schools was selected from among 40 organizations that presented ideas to solve childhood hunger as part of a United Way contest called the Social Innovation Challenge – 100,000 Kids Hungry No More.
The district was awarded $50,000 to expand the “breakfast in the classroom” program, which tries to bring breakfast to more students using kiosks – stand-alone carts containing a cooler for milk and juice, and trays for muffins, breakfast biscuits or cereal bars.
Teachers say that the self-serve breakfast allows students to settle in, socialize and start class on schedule.
Most of all, delivering to classrooms increases the number of students who get a good breakfast, said Jim Keaten, executive director of Child Nutrition Services at Durham Public Schools. Some students, especially high school students, don’t participate in self-serve breakfasts because of stigma or because of transportation difficulties, Keaten said.
“I think there are people not eating who need it,” he said.
The Durham school system now offers free breakfast to all students starting this school year, Keaten said. But Keaten’s budget allows him to add two schools to the “breakfast in the classroom” program; the $50,000 grant will allow him to add five more schools this year.
“By making breakfast free for all students and delivering meals to classrooms, this investment will impact over 2,500 students immediately with expected growth over three years to impact 25,000 students daily,” said Mack Koonce, president and CEO of United Way of the Greater Triangle.
Wake County, the state’s largest school system, offers free breakfast to students at eight elementary schools and serves an average of about 28,000 free, reduced and paid breakfasts each day.
This fall, Durham Public Schools served 19,107 breakfasts in the first week of school alone. More than 20,000 students are on the free-and-reduced breakfast plan, said Keaten.
Durham Public Schools and three other finalists in the United Way innovation contest – Grocers on Wheels, Pennies 4 Progress and Yes2Fresh – each received help in honing their ideas. United Way of the Greater Triangle hopes to connect all four finalists to funding sources.
The finalists were judged by a panel of business and nutrition experts during the United Way’s CEO Sleep Out on Sept. 11. The CEOs awarded the Durham Public Schools with an additional $5,000.
United Way will continue the Social Innovation Challenge with different topics each year. The goal is to apply the Triangle’s entrepreneurial and research edge to solve social issues and engage the community.