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‘Makes sense to have breakfast, doesn’t it?’ Gobi, Whipps observe Grab & Go at ARMS

  • State Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, speak to students at Athol-Royalston Middle School on Wednesday while visiting the school to observe its new Grab & Go Breakfast program. Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • State Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, and Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, speak at Athol-Royalston Middle School. Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • State Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, speak to students at Athol-Royalston Middle School on Wednesday while visiting the school to observe its new Grab & Go Breakfast program. Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli

  • State Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, and Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, speak to students at Athol-Royalston School. Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, December 06, 2017

ATHOL — Research shows children need to absorb nutrients in order to absorb knowledge.

With this in mind, Athol-Royalston Middle School started a “Grab & Go Breakfast” program this year to assist more students get access to what’s been called the most important meal of the day. State Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, and state Sen. Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, visited the school on Wednesday to observe the breakfast program made possible by state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education funding to Project Bread, an organization that promotes sustainable and reliable access to healthy food for all.

Whipps, Gobi and Project Bread President Erin McAleer served students breakfast from a “Grab & Go” kiosk outside the school gymnasium at roughly 8:20 a.m. and stopped by Jamie Hume’s fifth-grade science classroom on the third floor. Students were served apple sauce, milk and a Nutri-Grain bar.

Jordan Smith, the community relations coordinator of Project Bread’s Child Nutrition Outreach Program, which works to increase participation in the breakfast program, said four portable kiosks are dispatched throughout the school each morning. She said students take their food and can eat in their classrooms.

Inside Hume’s classroom, Whipps and Gobi told students they can’t learn well on empty tummies. Gobi recalled the hectic atmosphere in which she would try each morning to eat breakfast before school in a home with five brothers.

“Makes sense to have breakfast, doesn’t it?” she said to students in Room 303.

According to information from Smith, the middle school had previous to this academic year made breakfast available in the cafeteria each day before school, but this effort reached just 25 percent of the student population. The school then implemented Grab & Go Breakfast and reached 64 percent participation. This translates to a jump from 97 students to 250. Ninety percent of ARMS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, according to Project Bread.

The district also began offering “Breakfast in the Classroom” to students at Athol Community Elementary School last spring. The elementary school increased participation from 42 percent in March to 80 percent this academic year, reaching an extra 224 students.

According to information from Smith, the school district this summer for the first time served as a sponsor in the Summer Food Service Program, providing meals at no cost to children and teenagers at eight sites. The district served 4,997 breakfasts and 6,689 lunches (11,686 meals) from June 26 to Aug. 11.

Gobi thanked Whipps for her efforts, saying she can’t fight alone for nutrition programs. Both recently signed onto a bill that would expand the public school breakfast program in Massachusetts. According to Smith, this proposed legislation would require all state public schools kindergarten through Grade 12 with 60 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program to offer breakfast after the school day begins.

McAleer presented Gobi with Project Bread’s Hunger Hero Award to recognize the state senator’s 16 years of dedication to combating food insecurity. Whipps said Gobi is always modest, but programs like the Child Nutrition Outreach would not be possible without Gobi’s work and commitment to the 28 municipalities she represents.

Gobi, Whipps and McAleer were joined by other Project Bread employees, Athol-Royalston Regional School District Superintendent Darcy Fernandes, ARMS Principal Thomas Telicki and some School Committee members.

For more information about school breakfast, visit www.meals4kids.org.