Diane Disher and Terri Sheppard enter the hallway with their metal breakfast carts; Sheppard goes to the end of the hallway and Disher remains at the entrance. Each woman unzips a cooler and grabs her notebook just a minute before sixth-graders at Leslie M. Stover Middle School pour out of their classrooms and fill the hallway with laughter and middle-school banter. The line moves quickly as students grab milk or juice and a breakfast sandwich. They give Disher and Sheppard their lunch numbers and they sit down along the wall of the hallway or head back into their classroom to eat.
This breakfast procession – known at Stover as Breakfast in the Hall -- is different than what many who have been through the public school system are used to.
Stover still serves breakfast in the cafeteria before school starts, but there are also breakfast carts waiting for seventh- and eighth-graders each morning. They have the option of eating outside of the cafeteria and before entering their classroom. Sixth-graders go into the classroom first and get settled in for about 30 minutes before breakfast is served in their hallway.
“Sixth-graders are still transitioning, so they get extra time to get organized,” said Felicia Walker, Stover assistant principal.
The Stover community came together to decide what was best when the school found that students weren’t eating breakfast, Walker said.
Middle school children are “more socially conscious” Walker said, so when LMS started offering the second breakfast time participation numbers went up.
On Jan. 6, 310 students ate breakfast at Stover; 86 students ate in the cafeteria before school and 224 ate breakfast in the hall, said Terri Boone, Stover cafeteria manager. And on Jan. 23, 242 students ate breakfast at Stover; 32 had breakfast in the cafeteria and 210 ate in the hall.
Research shows that children who eat breakfast perform better in the classroom, said Misha Lawyer, the Kershaw County School District’s (KCSD) nutrition and school food service coordinator. Many of the district’s schools have implemented breakfast programs to serve the bodies and minds of children in the county.
Eating breakfast also keeps students from the nurse’s office, said Lawyer, Youngsters who see the nurse in the early hours of the day complaining of a headache usually have symptoms due to hunger, she said.
The Stover version of the program doesn’t work for every district school, Lawyer said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website outlines four “Alternative Service Methods” that help schools expand their breakfast program: breakfast in the classroom, breakfast after first period, Grab ‘N’ Go breakfast, and breakfast carts. Schools can choose what works best for them. The Southeast United Dairy Industry Association awarded the KCSD nine $2,000 grants to help expand its breakfast program.
“Breakfast in the classroom works for kids who have discipline issues, are late, or kids who would rather be with friends,” Lawyer said.
Sixth-grader Cameron Puckett eats breakfast most mornings. She said she likes Stover’s version of Breakfast in the Hall better than other versions of the program she’s experienced. In elementary school, Cameron said one person was sent to pick up breakfast for the entire class.
“I like this better than elementary; it always worked out your arm because you had to carry everything,” she said.
First-year teacher Lynley Jones’ students eat in the classroom. Jones lets students use the restroom and finish their morning science questions during breakfast time before they get into that day’s lesson. Jones said the Breakfast in the Hall program is a benefit because students “don’t complain that they are hungry during class time.”
Ninth-graders Kaleb Potteiger, 15, and Chay Stewart, 16, usually eat in the Camden High School (CHS) courtyard each morning. Although they say school breakfast is “OK,” both said they get tired during the school day if they don’t eat breakfast.
At CHS, students have no problem gathering in the cafeteria. Students also have the option of eating in the common area outside of the cafeteria, as well as the courtyard.
“Sometimes there is a negative connotation about kids who eat in the cafeteria,” Lawyer said. “We don’t care where they eat, it’s just important that they eat.”