Governor Steve Bullock and First Lady Lisa Bullock today announced that a total $55,743 in private grant funding has been awarded to 14 Montana schools through an ongoing partnership with Montana No Kid Hungry. Grant funds allow schools to increase student participation in breakfast to ensure more children are receiving quality nutrition throughout the school day.
“Childhood hunger is a problem that we can solve and we are making progress,” said Governor Bullock. “Hunger is a barrier that prevents students from excelling academically. We’re all working together to remove this barrier so that students can thrive, now and in the future.”
“I want to thank the schools that have taken the initiative to address the important issue of hunger so every student has the opportunity to be successful in the classroom,” First Lady Bullock said. “Teachers, parents, and most importantly, the students all see the difference it makes when kids are able to focus in school rather than being distracted by an empty stomach.”
Through their Breakfast After the Bell initiative, Governor and First Lady Bullock have partnered with Montana No Kid Hungry to help almost 100 schools across the state increase participation in school breakfast. Currently 144 of the 821 public schools in Montana offer an alternative Breakfast After the Bell program.
Grants are offered by Montana No Kid Hungry, which is housed under the Department of Public Health and Human Services. Funding for breakfast grants is made possible through support from private donors, including Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, BNSF Railway, Walmart, Inc., and Round It Up Montana (a partnership between the MT Restaurant and Retail Associations, Prostart, and No Kid Hungry). In partnership with the Prevention Resource Center AmeriCorps VISTA program, Montana No Kid Hungry works with schools to help them improve their breakfast programs and reach more kids with a morning meal.
During October-December 2017, Montana realized an increase of 2,330 kids who qualify for free and reduced-price meals eating school breakfast compared to the same time period last year, which translates to an increase of 5.2% in statewide school breakfast participation. Additionally, child food insecurity numbers have decreased in Montana from 20.1% in 2014 to 17% in 2016, according to Feeding America’s Meal Gap data.
Access to school breakfast is linked to less behavioral disruptions, tardiness, and trips to the nurse, as well as improved test scores.
Kathleen Johnson, Kindergarten teacher at West Valley School in Kalispell, experienced Breakfast After the Bell first-hand when her school was granted funds for the program in 2016. “It is essential that students begin their day with breakfast,” Johnson said. “If they don’t get it at home, they need to get it at school. Diet is as crucial to academics and behavior as environment and teacher.”
Craig Crawford, former Principal of Kessler Elementary in Helena and current principal of Bryant Elementary, echoes Johnson’s statement by saying, “You can’t do Bloom stuff until you take care of Maslow. We’re getting more performance out of kids in the morning because there are fewer kids that are hungry.” Kessler Elementary received a grant to implement an alternative breakfast program in 2015.
The 14 schools that received breakfast grants during this cycle include:
- Bigfork Elementary School, Bigfork, $4567
- Bigfork High School, Bigfork, $5804
- Medicine Crow Middle School, Billings, $4170
- Butte High School, Butte, $5000
- Frenchtown Junior High School, Frenchtown, $5000
- CR Anderson Middle School, Helena, $5000
- Hot Springs High School, Hot Springs, $795
- East Side Intermediate School, Livingston, $4957
- Pryor Elementary School, Pryor, $4810
- Central Elementary School, Sidney, $5000
- Stevensville K-6, Stevensville, $2670
- Northside Elementary School, Wolf Point, $2035
- Southside Primary School, Wolf Point, $2035
- Wolf Point High School, Wolf Point, $3900
Schools can apply for funding online through the Montana No Kid Hungry grant portal, with opportunities available twice per year during the spring and fall. Anyone interested in starting a new breakfast program, transitioning their existing program to an alternative service model, or for questions about upcoming grant opportunities, contact Linda Cleatus at LCleatus@mt.gov or by phone at 406-444-3925.