Sterling, VA (September 21, 2015) – First Lady of the Commonwealth Dorothy McAuliffe visited Sugarland Elementary on Monday, September 14th, to learn more about the school’s Breakfast in the Classroom program.
Sugarland implemented the program at the start of the school year. Each day, fifth grade students who serve as safety patrols report to the cafeteria to pick up insulated coolers on wheels to deliver breakfast to the classrooms. Students report directly to the classrooms to eat instead of going to the cafeteria.
Principal Gail Brady said the meal in the classroom has heightened the sense of community among the students and has virtually eliminated tardies at the school. Because the school is experiencing a higher participation rate for the breakfast program, the School Nutrition Department receives additional federal subsidies to cover the cost.
Loudoun County Public Schools Director of School Nutrition Services Dr. Becky Domokos-Bays said the meals comply with federal nutrition standards and are received by the students free of charge. Two days per week, the breakfast includes a hot sandwich, such as a chicken biscuit or a mozzarella Bosco stick. Monday’s breakfast included juice, apple slices and banana bread.
Each classroom has a designated sharing table. Students who don’t eat an item can place that item on the table, and it can be picked up by another student who needs more to eat.
Sugarland Elementary’s free and reduced-price lunch population is greater than that of LCPS as a whole. Seventy-six percent of Sugarland’s population qualifies for free and reduced-price lunch benefits, while only 17 percent of the LCPS population qualifies.
Brady stated the school seeks various ways of meeting families’ nutritional needs. These include a food bank that provides students extra food during weekends, holiday breaks and extended snow absences and offering dinner at parent-involvement events such as back-to-school night. The school and School Nutrition Department also are exploring the possibility of providing a supper program for the students.
“Education – that is the most important thing to invest in from a state level. That is the most important thing we can do for our future. What we see is food as a tool, like books, laptops and everything else. If they are hungry, they cannot learn,” said Dorothy McAuliffe.
McAuliffe met with School Nutrition staff in the cafeteria and visited students in two classrooms as they ate breakfast. She then met with local leaders who accompanied her on the visit to discuss the program.
Guests joining the First Lady on her visit to Sugarland Elementary included State Sen. Jennifer Wexton, Del. Tag Greason, Del. Kathleen Murphy, School Board Chair Eric Hornberger (Ashburn District), School Board Member Debbie Rose (Algonkian District), School Board Member Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District), LCPS Superintendent Dr. Eric Williams, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Cynthia Ambrose, Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Kevin Lewis, Director of School Administration Dr. Virginia Crawford-Patterson, Director of Elementary Education Dr. Mike Martin and Sugarland Elementary Assistant Principal Tim Sparbanie.
The group discussed collecting feedback about the program – perhaps from a teacher survey – to share with legislators. Data about increased student achievement and focus could increase bi-partisan support for such programs.
A similar program started Monday at Park View High School. Students there walk by a concession stand in the morning on their way to class. They can pick up breakfast in a “grab and go” model to take breakfast with them to their first block class.
Since becoming the Commonwealth’s First Lady, Dorothy McAuliffe has been a champion for eliminating childhood hunger in Virginia. She serves as chair of the Commonwealth Council on Bridging the Nutritional Divide. McAuliffe also focuses efforts on supporting agriculture in the state through eating local initiatives.