Breakfast Beyond the Bell, a new food initiative aimed at supplementing its current federally funded free and reduced breakfast program, is being piloted in the Cahokia School District in Illinois.
Breakfast Beyond the Bell is funded through a $30,000 grant from the Monsanto Fund, a philanthropic arm of Bayer. The program will be supported by the St. Louis Area Food Bank. One thousand students (200 from the Estelle Sauget Elementary School of Choice and 800 Cahokia High School students) will participate in the new pilot initiative.
The St. Louis Area Foodbank is a hunger relief organization that serves 26 area counties throughout the St. Louis region — 12 in Illinois and 14 in Missouri. Through its various relationships within the food industry, the food bank will secure a variety of breakfast items such as bananas, apples, and fig bars that will be delivered and served twice weekly to Cahokia students until the end of 2019.
According to a 2015 report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Ag entitled Hunger in Our Schools, educators throughout the nation indicated they regularly see students come to school hungry and that eating breakfast improves academic achievement, attendance and lessens behavioral problems.
“As educators, we are responsible for assisting our learners and their families, however consistently meeting the most basic of needs can at times be difficult, especially if hunger is present,” said Tanya Mitchell, Cahokia School District’s Interim Superintendent. “We are very grateful for the Monsanto Fund and the St. Louis Area Foodbank’s support of Breakfast Beyond the Bell and look forward to expanding this pilot program so that all 3,400 district students will benefit from this nutritional initiative.”
More than one third of individuals receiving food assistance from the St. Louis Area Foodbank are children and according to Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” study, nearly 20 percent of those living in St. Clair County, Illinois, where Cahokia is located, are food insecure.
Breakfast in the Classroom allows young students to get breakfast from a designated area and bring it back to eat at their classroom desks during first period. At Cahokia High School, the Second Chance model will place mobile service carts in high traffic areas. This will allow older students, who may not be hungry first thing in the morning, to grab breakfast items to eat after their first or second period breaks.