Breakfast fund nets $1,300 from public
The District 51 Start Smart Breakfast Fund, intended to help the district keep reduced-price breakfasts free for needy students, collected $1,305 from 13 donors before legislators decided to continue to fund the breakfast program.
During the last week of January, the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee proposed cutting the extra $124,000 needed to keep providing free breakfasts for the rest of the school year to low-income kindergarten through second-grade students who would otherwise pay a reduced price of 30 cents per breakfast.
That idea lasted 17 days before it was knocked down in another committee.
The Smart Start Nutrition Program was set to run out of money at the end of March, which is why District 51 quickly set up the Smart Start Breakfast Fund in hopes community members would donate money to keep breakfasts for qualifying students free through the end of the school year.
Now the district is uncertain what to do with the donations.
District 51 Nutrition Services Director Dan Sharp said the intent for now is to use the money for its intended cause, just maybe not this year.
“The state is going to fund April and May. They still have not made that decision for next year,” Sharp said.
Sharp said he plans to send a letter within the next week to the donors and ask them if they would like to have their money returned or allow the district to save it for any future funding shortage of reduced-price breakfasts.
If the breakfast-funding shortage never happens, Sharp would alternatively propose the donations be used to pay for children’s reduced-price lunches if their parents are struggling to pay for those meals.
“If they want us to forward the money to help that, great. And if not, we’ll return it,” Sharp said.
Gay Hammer, one of the 13 donors to the fund, said she wants her donation to be used for the fund’s original purpose only, something she can see happening next school year.
“With the governor’s cuts and the way the Legislature appears to be going, I think they will find it very difficult to fund that (reduced-price breakfasts) next year,” she said.