Ridge View Elementary students were treated to “Breakfast After the Bell” on their first day of school Wednesday, thanks to a privately funded grant that paid for the coolers and other equipment needed to start the program at the school last spring.
Principal Mat Johnston explained the logistics of the pilot program to Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, who visited Ridge View to welcome students back to school and see the program in action. Increased participation in school breakfast is an initiative of the Bullock administration and the Montana No Kid Hungry program, according to a press release from Cooney’s office.
Almost 475 Ridge View pupils helped themselves Wednesday morning to cheese sticks, applesauce and muffins, which were taken to individual classrooms in coolers. Prior to implementing the “After the Bell” breakfasts last spring, students who needed to eat their morning meal at school arrived at 7:30 and ate in the cafeteria, Johnston said.
In mid-April, the “After the Bell” program was rolled out, and by the end of the school year between 180 and 200 kids were participating. Before then, about 50 to 60 kids Ridge View students ate breakfast at school under the old system, Johnston said.
Though the meal was provided free to every student on Wednesday, participation in the program will be optional going forward. Families can pay $1.75 per breakfast into student lunch accounts, and those who qualify for reduced-cost lunches will pay only 30 cents per breakfast.
The program is not offered at Heck-Quaw because it isn’t feasible for heavy coolers to be transported up stairs, but Belgrade’s Saddle Peak Elementary has been offering the same program for a few years, Johnston said.
“The goal is to get every kid breakfast who wants it,” Johnston said. “It sets us up for a better morning.”