CMS wants 20k more students participating in universal breakfast

by: Paige Hansen Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

More Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students are eating breakfast less than a year after the district started universal breakfast, making it free for all students, regardless of income level.

The district needs more students to eat breakfast to break even on the program.

At West Mecklenburg High School on Tuesday, there is an attempt to get students excited about breakfast.

“When I eat breakfast now, I have my energy going,” said sophomore Chanyia Lashley. “It helps me wake up more, too.”

A cafeteria worker stocked a new “grab-and-go” breakfast kiosk that the district hopes will get more students to eat the first meal of the day.

“Because of the cost of the food and the labor, we’d like to see an increase of another 20,000 students eating breakfast so we don’t lose money on the project,” said Amy Harkey, director of child nutrition operations for CMS.

Universal breakfast was approved by the board last year. The program doesn’t use county money because government subsidies pay more than it costs to make the breakfasts but the district is only reimbursed when the students actually eat breakfast.

The pilot program showed more students eat breakfast when it’s free for everyone, not just the 54 percent of CMS students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

“It’s taken away that burden of being embarrassed by financially how it is at home,” said senior Biana Munoz-Cruz. “Just to know everybody is equal in that one way and we can share the same breakfast.”

Harkey said many studies point to the benefits of breakfast like fewer absences and higher test scores.

CMS has seen an increase in the number of students who eat breakfast, an average of 7,000 more a month.

“We are excited about the increase in breakfast, but we still have a lot of children to reach,” she said.

The grab-and-go kiosk is part of a $4,000 grant created in partnership with the NFL who spoke Tuesday with students about eat breakfast.