Colorado schools earn cash for boosting breakfast participation

Breakfast in the classroom programs helped four schoosl increase morning meal counts.

An unusual state initiative for boosting participation in the school breakfast program has awarded several thousand dollars in cash prizes to four Colorado elementary schools.

Clayton Elementary, with a 72% jump in participation, was presented with the first-place prize of $5,000 under the second School Breakfast Challenge. The program invites school feeding operations throughout the state to vie for dollars by drawing more eligible students to breakfast.

A second prize of $3,000 was presented to Penrose Elementary, which logged a 71% increase in participation, and $2,000 was given to third-place finisher Longfellow Elementary, with a 67% rise. Honorable mention and $1,000 went to Northeast Elementary for its 66% participation boost.

The nutrition departments for each of the top-finishing school were also awarded $1,000.

All of the prize earners switched from cafeteria breakfast service to breakfast in the classroom model. Officials noted that the classroom service spares students the embarrassment they might feel for participating in a subsidized meal program. They also mentioned that it ensures the children are in class when school starts.

The Colorado School Breakfast Challenge is administered by Hunger Free Children, a charitable program for underprivileged children, with support from Share Our Strength and Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former restaurateur.

About 217,000 students participate in the federal National School Lunch Program, but only 87,000 participate in its breakfast version, according to Colorado’s Department of Education. Both feeding programs are funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.