Two schools in the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union were named winners in the Breakfast After the Bell Challenge, with Pownal Elementary School taking home the top prize.
The contest, funded by Hunger Free Vermont and the New England Dairy and Food Council, recognized schools that increased the percentage of students participate in in-school breakfast programs in the last year. Nine of the eleven participating schools increased the rate of students eating school breakfasts by at least 20 percent, but Pownal had the highest increase of any of them — 171 percent, with 85 percent of their students eating breakfast at school. Molly Stark Elementary School in Bennington saw similar results — a 132 percent increase, with 88 percent of their students now participating in the program.
"This year is the first year we've had breakfast in the classroom," said Pownal principal Todd Phillips, at a ceremony at the school on Friday, in which the school received a banner naming them as the champions of the challenge. The SVSU recently became eligible for and enrolled in the federal Community Eligibility Provision, a federal program that provides free breakfast and lunch to all students in areas that meet certain requirements having to do with poverty. Now instead of having breakfast be an optional pre-school activity, it takes place right after the start of the school day. Anore Horton, of Hunger Free Vermont, said that when students are given the choice between eating breakfast and playing with their friends before school, they will almost always choose their friends.
By taking away that choice, it encourages more students to start their day with a healthy meal.