By Erin Achenbach
The Mehlville Board of Education unanimously approved to continue the pilot universal free breakfast program at Forder Elementary through the end of the school year after a successful initial pilot that saw an increase in both participation and net financial gain for the Department of Food Services.
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.
Prior to the implementation of the pilot program at Forder, only 27 to 40 percent of the 46 percent of students who qualify for free and reduced meals ate breakfast at the school.
After the program began on Feb. 4, participation increased in all areas.
Before the pilot, 13 percent of full-pay students were eating breakfast at the school, 29 percent of reduced-pay students were eating at the school and 38 percent of students who qualify for free meals were eating at the school.
Overall, 21 percent of the student body was eating on campus.
During the pilot, 37 percent of full-pay students ate at the school, 52 percent of reduced-pay students ate at the school and 49 percent of students who qualify for free meals ate breakfast at the school.
Total participation for the entire student body was 43 percent, a 22 percent increase from before Universal Free Breakfast was implemented.
“Forder staff have been amazing. The teachers, the staff, they’re on board,” said Food Services Director Katie Gegg. “It wouldn’t have been able to be where it’s at without their full support.”
Over the course of the pilot program, through the reimbursements, the Department of School Food and Nutrition had a net gain of $816.56 as of March 6.
That money comes from federal funds.
“I talked to some of the teachers at Forder when we first approved this and not only were they thankful but just hearing the stories of the kids… It was just very sweet,” said board President Samantha Stormer. “I’m really glad that this has worked out so well… Thank you guys for what you’re doing.”
The board voted 7-0 to extend the universal breakfast program through the end of the school year.
Beasley Elementary, another school in the Mehlville School District, implemented a universal breakfast program in 2017 and due to the success of the program, voted to extend it through the remainder of the 2017-2018 school year and the entirety of the 2018-2019 school year.