Hannah Bailey doesn’t always have time to eat breakfast at home.
When Hannah, 13, was in seventh grade, she had to go hungry until lunch.
“Sometimes I didn’t eat breakfast, so I was hungry until I had time to eat,” Hannah said.
Now, the eighth grader at La Vista Junior High School can eat breakfast at school thanks to the school’s new breakfast program.
Seven of the Papillion-La Vista School District’s 14 elementary schools already have breakfast programs: Carriage Hill, G. Stanley Hall, Golden Hills, La Vista West, Parkview Heights, Tara Heights and Walnut Creek. One of the district’s two high schools, Papillion-La Vista High School, also has a breakfast program.
Several La Vista Junior High School staff members had inquired about starting a breakfast program, said principal Pat Zalesky.
“There’s so much research that shows having breakfast makes students more alert, have better grades and academically better,” Zalesky said.
In addition to what research has shown, it also makes mornings a little easier on busy families.
“If you know you can have breakfast at school, that takes out some of the madness in the morning,” Zalesky said.
To get the program started, Zalesky and staff members completed parent and student surveys, designed menus and tested menu items. It took about a month to get the program started, Zalesky said.
The program at La Vista Junior High is similar to the one in place at Papillion-La Vista High School, but it was adapted to be a grab ‘n go program, said Sue Sucha, director of food services.
The grab ‘n go style program allows eighth grade students take their breakfasts to the gym, where they assemble before classes. It also lets students take breakfasts to their clubs that meet before class.
“Clubs begin early,” Zalesky said. “A number of students are dropped off very early. They can come in and get breakfast.”
The elementary schools have grab ‘n go programs, too, Sucha said. But their breakfast bags are pre-filled with the day’s menu.
At La Vista Junior High, breakfast is served in the cafeteria between 7:30 a.m. and 7:55 a.m.
Students go through a line and fill a plastic bag with their meal choices.
They have an option to choose one hot item or two cold items. In addition, they choose between fruit or juice and all students receive milk.
The hot and cold menu items vary each day, Sucha said. Hot items range from French toast to mini breakfast sandwiches or breakfast pizza. Cold items vary from muffins, yogurt, cereal or cheese sticks.
Adapting the program to a grab ‘n go style included using plastic bags and using packaged hot items.
“For example, we use pre-wrapped mini pancakes at La Vista Junior High instead of the traditional pancakes on a plate that we use at Papillion-La Vista High School,” Sucha said.
Breakfast costs $1.65. Students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch also get breakfast for free or the reduced price of 30 cents.
Students pay for breakfast using the same online program they use for lunch. Through MyLunchMoney.com, parents can deposit breakfast and lunch money into their child’s account.
Other area school districts also offer breakfast programs.
Bellevue Public Schools serve breakfast at all 15 of the elementary schools, three junior high schools and two high schools.
“A lot of studies have shown the impact of breakfast to start the day to get students through to lunch. It’s important to make sure those kids have food in the morning,” said district spokeswoman Amanda Oliver.
The program at La Vista Junior High School started on Dec. 4.
So far, Sucha and school staff members have been helping students get used to the program and they’re catching on quickly.
Staff members had positive feedback about the program for Zalesky. Organization went smoothly and students said the food was good, Zalesky said.
For Hannah and seventh-grader Malik Harris, the option of having breakfast at school has made their mornings smoother.
“I can get ready faster instead of being late,” Hannah said.
Hannah and Malik both came from district elementary schools that offered breakfast.
“Studies show students who eat breakfast have a better attention span, perform better on standardized tests and it enhances the overall academic performance,” Sucha said.