Cascade Elementary School wins national award for breakfast program

The program ensures every student in the school eats breakfast in their classroom.

As the bell rings at 8:30 a.m. ,students at Cascade Elementary School scurry into their classroom.

First item on the agenda: eat breakfast.

Cascade Elementary is the first school in the district to pioneer a program that ensures every student in the school eats breakfast in their classroom.

The program, made possible by funding through United Way of King County, was recently recognized in the 2018 Breakfast Hero contest, held by the national anti-hunger campaign No Kid Hungry.

The school was one of five winners nationwide.

“I was surprised, but also excited. It’s neat to be recognized for doing something that meets the needs for all of our kids,” said Principal Rachel Lockhart. “It’s really the partnership between United Way, the nutrition services department in the district and the willingness of our school staff to create the program and be able to implement it.”

“This amazing group of people, each with a different role at the school and in the district, worked highly collaboratively with us to build out a Breakfast in the Classroom model,” said Ayako Shapiro with United Way of King County, in a press release. “They brought excitement, enthusiasm, and a willingness to try new things and problem solve together every day. So many more students are now accessing breakfast as a result of all of their hard work.”

According to No Kid Hungry, one in every five kids in Washington face hunger. At Cascade Elementary, 65 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced price meals.

United Way, along with various partners Representative Zack Hudgins, developed a coalition project called Breakfast After The Bell in 2013 to ensure all kids start their day with a nutritious meal. Washington state ranks 44th in the nation in school breakfast participation. On March 7, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law House Bill 1508, which promotes “student health and readiness through meal and nutrition programs.”

Cascade Elementary School was the first school to pilot the Breakfast After The Bell program. Funding from United Ways was used to purchase pick-up carts, containers, and other materials.

The program was launched in March. Before the program began, Kitchen Manager Jackie Hood said she was serving breakfast to about 100 students in the cafeteria. Now she makes breakfast for about 400 students daily.

“(My students) have more energy,” said kindergarten teacher Alisa Vinson. “Breakfast has helped give them the extra boost.”

The food is prepared, packaged and delivered to the classrooms by volunteers where every student, even students who do not qualify for free or reduced price meals, have breakfast at no cost.

“Now there’s (breakfast) for everybody and they can access it for free,” said Lockhart. “It establishes a nutritious breakfast for everyone, but also a sense of community. It’s something everyone is doing together each and every day. In the classroom, it’s how they’re starting the day together.”