HELENA - As a part of their Montana Breakfast after the Bell initiative, Governor Steve Bullock and First Lady Lisa Bullock announced today that a total of $36,000 in privately funded grants have been awarded to 9 schools to implement new school breakfast programs or transition to models that increase participation, such as breakfast in the classroom or “grab-and-go.”
The grants were made possible with support from Jeff Bridges, Share Our Strength, Round It Up Montana, Blue Cross Blue Shield, First Interstate Bank Foundation, and Neptune Aviation.
“Part of ensuring that every Montana student has the opportunity to succeed starts with access to a healthy breakfast,” Governor Bullock said. “Together with educators, community partners, and private business, my wife and I will continue our efforts to expand this program across the state and make sure every kid in Montana starts each school day ready to learn.”
The grants, offered through Montana No Kid Hungry, are intended to help schools pay for essential equipment and infrastructure such as grab-and-go kiosks, carts for delivering meals to classrooms, or temporary staffing through the implementation phase; programs are expected to be self-sustaining thereafter. The meals served through the school breakfast program are federally funded by the United States Department of Agriculture. Therefore, the more kids participate in school breakfast, the more funding the school receives to operate the program.
On average, school breakfast participation rises to more than 70 percent when schools implement a Breakfast after the Bell model versus 30 percent with a traditional model that serves breakfast in the cafeteria before school starts.
“When breakfast is served after the bell, it’s more accessible and less stigmatizing to our students,” said First Lady Lisa Bullock. “Our goal is to award even more grants this school year, so that more students can concentrate on the academic task at hand rather than starting the day with the distraction of an empty stomach.”
Billings Senior High School is one of the recent grantees and after implementing Breakfast after the Bell before 1st and 2nd period, Principal Dennis Holmes said “We now serve 950 breakfasts per day, an increase of approximately 700 students. As a result, and I doubt any of our 100 teachers would disagree, there is better student engagement, fewer behavioral problems, and we hope it results in a higher level of student achievement. I believe if you fuel the body, you fuel the mind.”
Principal Holmes’ comments align with national studies that have found that school breakfast is associated with lower rates of tardiness, fewer referrals to the school nurse, and fewer disciplinary incidents. Research also shows that students who eat breakfast at school perform 17 percent better on math tests compared to those who eat at home or do not eat breakfast at all.
The 9 schools that were awarded grants in this grant round are:
Saddle Peak Elementary School, Belgrade $4988.00
Billings Senior High School, Billings $3296.00
Mountain View Elementary School, Great Falls $3791.00
Roosevelt Elementary School, Great Falls $3720.00
Smith Elementary School, Helena $3069.90
Kessler Elementary School, Helena $3204.90
Independent School, Billings $4547.00
Kalispell Middle School, Kalispell $3928.00
Target Range School, Missoula $5000.00
There are more than 110 schools in Montana that have made breakfast part of the school day. In partnership with Montana No Kid Hungry, the Bullocks will offer another grant cycle in February 2016 to support new breakfast programs and schools transitioning to Breakfast after the Bell models to boost participation this school year or at the start of the next school year. Governor and First Lady Bullock awarded $114,600 to 36 Montana schools during the 2014-2015 school year.