School breakfasts will remain free through May

District 51 students who qualify for reduced-price meals will continue to receive free breakfasts through the end of this school year, despite the likelihood state funding will be cut for the free breakfast program after March 31.

The Joint Budget Committee decided last week not to add money for funding the growing Start Smart Breakfast Program through the rest of the school year. Since 2007, the program has reimbursed Colorado school districts the price of providing free breakfasts to low-income students who would otherwise pay a reduced meal price of 30 cents per breakfast.

The Nutrition Services Department, which has a budget separate from the district’s general fund, plans to pay the extra 30 cents for breakfast for the 350 reduced-price-qualifying students who eat breakfast for free every day, a task that may cost up to $4,000. Anyone wishing to donate to the department specifically to help pay for the breakfasts can call 254-5181.

District 51 Nutrition Services Director Dan Sharp said the department is entertaining ideas for how it will fund free breakfasts if state funding is pulled from the program for 2011–12. Possibilities include finding department dollars and using donations to continue providing free breakfasts, charging the 30 cents, or a compromise between these options.

It costs about $18,000 to fund free breakfasts for reduced price students year-round in District 51.

If parents were asked to pay 30 cents, Sharp believes the number of students eating breakfast at home or at school would drop.

That’s cause for concern, Sharp said, because research indicates students perform better at school with a full stomach.

“Thirty cents doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but for a home close to the poverty level, it can be. Seeing this go away, it’s disappointing,” Sharp said.


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