By Erin Achenbach
The Mehlville School District will be running a universal free breakfast pilot program at Forder Elementary School starting this week and continuing through March 15, with the unanimous approval of the Board of Education.
A universal free breakfast program is a complete breakfast available at no cost to all students, with meals claimed for federal reimbursement according to income category — free, reduced or full pay.
Reimbursement rates to the district per meal are $2.14 for free, $1.84 for reduced and 31 cents for full pay. The district introduced the program at Beasley Elementary this year after a successful pilot last year.
Currently 46 percent of students at Forder Elementary qualify for free or reduced price meals. Only 27 to 40 percent of these students ate breakfast at school in the months of September to December, potentially meaning that 60 percent or more students from low-income households did not eat breakfast.
“We did not run a survey of those students to see if they are eating at home, but obviously they’re qualified for the program so there is some need there,” said Director of Food and Nutrition Services Katie Gegg. “So we want them to come eat with us to take the burden off from home, but they’re not.”
The goal of the pilot program is to increase overall breakfast participation, especially among students who qualify for free and reduced school meals, Gegg said.
She will be monitoring daily participation in the breakfast program by income category, as well as checking revenue and food costs and labor costs.
At the conclusion of the pilot program, the board will decide whether to continue based on the data collected.
“I’m glad to see you’re expanding this. I was excited when we started this at the first school,” said board President Samantha Stormer. “Anything we can do to make sure our kids are getting fed.”