Westside Elementary receives breakfast grant

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Studies show breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Now, every student at Westside Elementary can eat this vital meal free, thanks to the Arkansas Meals for Achievement Pilot Grant.

This is the only school in the Jonesboro area to receive this grant.

"We actually applied for all three school districts, for the high school, middle school and the elementary. And out of 102 that applied in the state, there was 18 chosen. So only one of our school districts got picked," Food Services Director Angie Koons said.

All Westside Elementary students can eat cereal, toast or the hot breakfast of the day for free from 7:30 to 8 a.m.

Koons said parents also save money, about a total of $1,700 every month.

"This is actually giving the ones who had to pay for theirs or the ones who qualified for reduced, which is 30 cents, but still that adds up over time. With the economy, parents can't afford to pay for the breakfast and lunch, too," Koons said. 

Students started eating the free breakfast September 25 and the grant's reimbursements from the Hunger Relief Alliance kicked in Tuesday.
"We fed over 400 kids yesterday so it has really increased," Koons said. "If we can at least get 500 in here, we know that's gonna be at least 500 kids that are fed every morning. And some of them may not get a meal from the lunch they eat here until the next morning."

Koons said even if Westside Elementary feeds breakfast to all 620 students, the grant will reimburse every penny.

School administrators said the goal of the grant was also to help students focus more in the classroom.

"The teachers are encouraging them to be sure to come in because they know it's going to help in their classroom. They concentrate, increase their test scores," Koons said. 

Studies prove this. According to "Ending Childhood Hunger: A Social Impact Analysis," in Arkansas, eating breakfast causes more than 25,000 students to score higher on standardize math tests every year and about 6,000 more students to graduate from high school.  

"We're hoping within a month that we can really see a difference with the kids," Koons said.

The grant runs out June 30 so Koons said Westside plans to reapply at the end of every school year. 

Koons said next year, they will apply for grants for the elementary, middle school and high school again in hopes to provide free breakfast to more than just the elementary students.

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