By Brenda Flanagan
Most kids eat lunch at school, but at Rahway’s Roosevelt Elementary, students get breakfast, too. And teachers notice a big difference.
“The kids have a lot more energy to think. And that’s important,” said third grade teacher Marie Meriton.
Meriton knows. She’s taught school for 22 years.
“You do see a difference. If the child has missed breakfast, they get tired. As it gets towards lunchtime, they start to fade. Some may fall asleep,” Meriton said.
“Eat breakfast and achieve. It gets them off to a great start,” Principal Rocco Colucci said.
Colucci says about a quarter of Roosevelt’s 600 students eat breakfast at school now. He sees fewer kids sent to the office for misbehaving.
“We had a number of kids who did not eat at home, unfortunately, and they would tell us that,” Colucci said. “Eight or 10 students sometimes between the hours of 8:30 and 11:30 come down to the office for disciplinary reasons. We don’t see that any more. Students are not being sent to the office as a result of that.”
A typical school breakfast could be a bagel with cream cheese or pancakes with syrup and sausages. Kids do have a choice.
Statewide, nearly 184,000 kids eat a federally-subsidized school breakfast. That’s about 48,000 more than a couple of years ago. But it’s still only 41 percent of kids who are eligible for the program.
To boost participation, the state has partnered with the Jets football organization to host a competition among New Jersey school districts. It stressed exercise and good nutrition, especially breakfast.
Place Kicker Nick Folk tells them, “We have a nutritionist who helps us. We have people who help us, still to this day.”
Roosevelt School students took it to heart. And today, they won the grand prize.
“Because of that — all the effort you put in — you’re gonna receive a $5,000 prize. That’s not for each one of you. That’s for the school,” said Douglas Fisher, NJ Agriculture Secretary.
With that prize money, the school plans to install a fresh salad bar to offer more fresh fruits and veggies every day.