Cart makes breakfast popular, easy

Bartlett, IL

For most high school students, breakfast takes a back seat to sleep.

With classes at South Elgin High School starting as early as 7:12 a.m., sophomore John Behles said he, like many other students, would rather sleep a couple of extra minutes than wake up early to fit breakfast in before he leaves for school.

“Sometimes I can’t get to school on time because I like to sleep in,” he said. “I don’t have time to eat the necessary things like eggs.”

The school’s nurse, Julia Olsta, noticed since she arrived at the school during the 2009-10 school year, she was receiving an influx of students coming to her office with headaches and stomachaches, which she believed were partly caused by the students not eating breakfast that morning.

“We looked at what we could do about that,” Olsta said. “I had done some research and applied for a grant for the breakfast cart program.”

Students now have the option to buy breakfast at school through the new pilot program introduced in August, and funded through a $2,500 grant from the Midwest Dairy Council.

Olsta said the rolling cart makes stops outside of various study halls during first through fourth period every day.

The cart contains items including fruit, cereal, string cheese, yogurt, breakfast bars, juice and milk.

“We have really increased breakfast participation since we did it,” she said. “It’s really exciting.”

Students have always been able to purchase a breakfast in the commons before school each morning.

The cart, however, provides a more convenient option for students, said freshman Jennifer Garcia.

“I usually don’t have time to eat before school,” she said. “Since we get it in our study hall, it gives me time to eat.”

In just four months the average number of students who bought breakfast at school jumped from 110 to 300 once the breakfast cart was introduced.

According to food service technician Pat Curameng, who pushes the cart to nine study hall locations during the day, parents can load money on accounts linked to their students’ identification cards, which makes it easier for students to buy breakfast.

“If they have money on their accounts, it comes right off of their ID, but we do take cash if they have it,” she said.

Students are allowed to buy up to four options from the cart. Curameng said each item purchased individually ranges from about 50 cents to $1, but school staff encourage students to purchase a well-balanced breakfast that includes a protein, a carbohydrate, piece of fruit and a milk for $1.25.

According to the Midwest Dairy Association, students who eat breakfast are more likely to be “alert, focused and ready to tackle the day’s academic challenges.”

Senior Dylan Rosalez said he grabs a peanut butter and jelly Uncrustable sandwich and a strawberry milk on a regular basis.

“It gives us food, and that way we can focus better and we don’t go through the day starving,” he said. “I’m more awake during class now that I eat breakfast.”

Olsta said because some students have a lunch period as late as 1:37 p.m., it helps them get through the day without hunger pangs.

“That’s a really long time to go without food,” she said. “Most of the students have study hall and are able to buy things in the morning.”

Claudie Phillips, director of food and nutrition for U-46, said the breakfast cart program has been instrumental in achieving the district’s overall goal of more breakfast participation and hopes other schools will soon follow in South Elgin’s footsteps.

“We’re very, very impressed,” she said. “It’s hard to get middle- and high-school kids to change their habits but if you involve them in the process, they’re more likely to follow their peers.”

Additionally, the district is installing a smart vending machine at Eastview Middle School in the coming weeks in which students will be able to choose items such as fruit and cereal without standing in line in the cafeteria before school. With Eastview’s addition, all 66 schools in the district will offer a breakfast program.

“A lot of parents don’t even realize we offer breakfast,” Phillips said. “Eating a good breakfast on ISAT testing day is good, but why not encourage it every day.”