Free breakfast brings bright days, but timing may make it harder for students to eat

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Free breakfast brings bright days, but timing may make it harder for students to eat

All students at Watkins Mill High School are entitled to free breakfast in the cafeteria before 7:45.

All students at Watkins Mill High School are entitled to free breakfast in the cafeteria before 7:45.

Cyrus Turner

All students at Watkins Mill High School are entitled to free breakfast in the cafeteria before 7:45.

Cyrus Turner

Cyrus Turner

All students at Watkins Mill High School are entitled to free breakfast in the cafeteria before 7:45.

Katelyn Burley and Grace Edwards

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Last year, Watkins Mill High School switched from serving free breakfast for all students in the classroom until 8 am to serving it in the cafeteria between 7:15 am and 7:40 am. While the change was made primarily due to lack of accountability, students say they eat breakfast less often now.

Maryland Meals for Achievement, which sponsors the free breakfast, is a research-based program that determines the distribution of food while focusing on providing free breakfast. During the 2017-2018 school year, administration decided that breakfast would be served in classrooms during the first 15 minutes of first period.

“The problem was that they could not keep track of how many kids were eating,” principal Carol Goddard said. “So we can’t really be accountable for the numbers.”

A tally system was used to keep track of how many students ate, but students frequently did not adhere to the system. “The teacher was supposed to be doing the tallying,” Goddard added. “I guess it got turned over to students and nobody kept track.”

English teacher Scott Tarzwell misses having breakfast in his class.  “I don’t see many students now until 7:40… I loved the ‘closeness’ with which my students felt they could come in and eat breakfast in the room with me,” Tarzwell added. “The system two years ago allowed me to physically see students eating breakfast in a space in which they felt comfortable.”

“Two years ago… [I ate breakfast] probably everyday. I ate it more often than I do now,” junior Asnath Balilonoso said. This year, students have to go to the cafeteria or the concession stand near the auditorium, and enter their ID number.

No matter when breakfast is served, “it’s great that we supply [breakfast] to everybody,” English teacher Ellen Stahly said. “It takes the stigma away from kids who might not want to be identified as FARMS. So now it’s just everybody… it’s awesome.”

With the new schedule, cafeteria staff hours had to be cut due to the decrease in necessary preparation for breakfast. “It hurts the morale of the kitchen,” cafeteria manager Irene Thompson said.  “People feel bad because we’re doing the best we can to bring [the students] in.”  The staff is dedicated to making sure students get a good breakfast.

“[Breakfast] is free. Just come and receive,” Thompson added.  Students “need that [breakfast]. They need to have a good meal. Their mind is feeling good, their tummies are feeling good… they need to eat.”

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