Governor Steve Bullock and First Lady Lisa Bullock today announced that a total of $40,541 in private grant funding has been awarded to 10 schools to expand school breakfast programs. Through their Breakfast after the Bell initiative, Governor and First Lady Bullock have partnered with Montana No Kid Hungry to help more than 80 schools across the state serve more than 1.2 million breakfasts to 5,300 additional students.
“In order for our state to thrive in the future, we need to raise a strong generation of kids today,” Governor Bullock said. “More schools across Montana are becoming committed to making breakfast part of the school day, and as a result, thousands of more students are receiving a quality education on a full stomach.”
“When our kids don’t have the meals they need to make it through the school day, they aren’t able to concentrate on their classroom tasks, pass their tests, or engage in classroom activities,” First Lady Bullock said. “The Breakfast after the Bell program gives children peace of mind knowing they will get to eat at school, which provides them a greater opportunity to flourish and reach their full potential.”
Highlighting the progress made in Montana so far, actor and No Kid Hungry National Spokesperson Jeff Bridges commented, “The health of our children is a wonderful compass that can tell us if our country is going in the right direction. I was recently up in Montana where I met with the Western Governors Association about ending childhood hunger in their states. I’ve done some work with Governor Bullock there. I can’t think of anything more patriotic than taking care of our kids. They are the future of our nation.”
“One of the greatest feelings in the world is knowing that we as individuals can make a difference. Ending hunger in America is a goal that is literally within our grasp,” Bridges continued.
Currently, Montana ranks in the top ten nationwide for percentage growth in school breakfast participation.
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, Walmart Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, and Round It Up Montana (a partnership between the MT Restaurant and Retail Associations, Prostart, and No Kid Hungry). Over $300,000 in private grant funding has been provided to Montana schools since the Breakfast after the Bell initiative was launched in 2014.
Grant funds allow schools to increase student participation in breakfast and ensure that all children are receiving quality nutrition throughout the school day. The money awarded to past recipients has been used to purchase breakfast service kiosks, delivery carts, insulated food storage bags, point-of-sale computer terminals and kitchen supplies, or to hire additional food service staff.
Montana No Kid Hungry collaborates with the Prevention Resource Center’s AmeriCorps VISTA Program to place seven VISTAs across the state to assist schools with planning and implementing the Breakfast after the Bell program. VISTAs are located in Kalispell, Helena, Butte, Billings, Hardin, Plentywood, and Poplar. VISTAs also assisted with six out of the ten grants in this cycle and help to build capacity and infrastructure to implement Breakfast after the Bell programs.
The 10 schools that received breakfast grants during this cycle include:
- Butte High Career Center, Butte, $3545
- Columbus High School, Columbus, $5120
- DeSmet Public School, DeSmet, $2740
- Lame Deer Elementary, Lame Deer, $5000
- Laurel Middle School, Laurel, $5551
- Cherry Valley Elementary, Polson, $5000
- Poplar High School, Poplar, $4913
- Somers Middle School, Somers Lakeside, $4777
- Westby High School, Westby, $2895
- Wibaux High School, Wibaux, $1000
Providing students with healthy meals, especially breakfast, has a significant impact on their academic and personal wellbeing. Beyond improving students’ ability to focus on classwork, eating a healthy breakfast has also been linked to fewer absences, behavioral stability, and improved overall health.
Kennedy Elementary in Butte is a current grant recipient and recently adopted an alternative Breakfast in the Classroom model. First Grade Teacher Chrissy Harper notes that attendance has improved in her classroom because the students genuinely enjoy breakfast, "It's the highlight of their day!”
“Teachers have reported to me that the kids are more attentive for longer because they’re eating breakfast,” said Butte’s Kennedy Elementary School Principal, Ron Ricketts. “The number of kids eating has more than doubled how many kids ate last year. I have nothing but positive things to say [about Breakfast after the Bell].”
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, can contact Linda Cleatus at LCleatus@mt.gov or by phone at 406-444-3925.