No Kid Hungry urges Baltimore City schools to serve breakfast after, not before school starts

BALTIMORE - Most schools serve breakfast to students before the bell rings.  There's now a push to get Maryland schools to offer breakfast once kids are in the classroom.

The halls of Cecil Elementary school are eerily quiet right before the bell rings.  Waiting outside of each classroom are three containers filled with cereal, milk, juice and apples.  When the students arrive, they pick up the containers and place them in the classroom for their peers to enjoy.

Cecil is one of 83 schools in Baltimore City that serves breakfast after the bell.

"When we first heard about moving breakfast into the classroom, we have mixed thoughts about it," said Roxanne Forr, principal at Cecil.

She says her staff had concerns about how to serve the meals in an orderly fashion and clean up the mess.  After multiple discussions, they realized the need for this program outweighed the logistical problems.

"Our goal was to serve the majority of our students because that is the number one priority.  We don't know when the last meal was for many of these kids," Forr said.

With financial help from the No Kid Hungry campaign in Maryland, Cecil can store the cold breakfast foods, provide containers for each classroom and trash cans for clean up.  Each child eats while reading for 15 minutes in the morning and helps dispose of the trash.

"They're not limited by the stigma of walking to the cafeteria and being seen as those kids," said Molly McCloskey, director of the Maryland No Kid Hungry campaign.

McCloskey says they have about $250,000 to use toward the program, yet only one third of Baltimore City schools participate in it.  McCloskey believes its partly because schools don't know how to incorporate breakfast without losing instructional time.  McCloskey says it can be done, and Cecil is proof.

"We create a system to make it quick, make it efficient, make it effective.  The kids eat their breakfast and we move on with the business of school."

Since starting the after-the-bell breakfast program, Forr says she's seen a positive change in her students' behavior.

"After they eat, they can settle down and focus on the reason why they came to school, which is to make sure they can read and do the math."

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