Vernon Schools Showing Off Free Breakfast Program With Creative Menu

VERNON, CT — Smoothies and frozen yogurt pops …. and homemade granola …

It’s been a creative breakfast week in Vernon’s public schools.

The school system’s Food and Nutrition Services Department has been celebrating National School Breakfast Week, which is designed to highlight, as Superintendent of Schools Joseph Macary likes to say, “the critical role of breakfast in helping students learn, develop and do their best in school.”

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Food and Nutrition Services Director Elizabeth Fisher and her staff developed a menu to get children excited about breakfast in order to increase participation in the free breakfast program at each school.

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“Breakfast is an important part of a child’s day,” Fisher said. “It has been shown that
students who eat breakfast have improved academic performance, attention and
behavior at school. So, this week — and every week — we are encouraging our students to
join us at breakfast.”

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Monday morning at Lake Street School Fisher, cafeteria manager Michelle Theriault
and assistant manager Trish Andreoli were sampling a special treat to encourage more
students to enjoy breakfast: frozen yogurt pops made with Greek yogurt, blueberries and granola.

It was a huge hit and children snatched up every yogurt pop.

“Let us know what you think about when you come back for lunch,” Andreoli told students as she handed out samples.

“They’re so good,” one student replied, “I know I’m going to like it.”

Andreoli, who greeted every child by his or her first name as the student body came through the line, impressed one little girl when she told her that she made the granola.

“Really?” the student replied.

Providing children with a healthy breakfast can be a challenge for some families, especially those on tight budgets and with busy morning schedules, school officials said.

“I love having breakfast available at school because some families don’t have access to breakfast at home or are running late,” Lake Street School Principal Tracy Duenzl said. “The other issue is that some students are not quite hungry enough to eat breakfast when they are at home, but when they get to school they are hungry.”

It is a lot for families to digest, especially those with multiple children.

“We have high expectations for our students and need them to be ready to work hard,” Macary said. “We know that children who arrive at school hungry may not be ready to learn. A healthy breakfast at school evens the playing field and ensures all students are ready to focus, learn and move forward.”

At Lake Street School Monday morning, word had spread that there was a special treat with breakfast and more and more students headed to the cafeteria. Andreoli had to step back into the kitchen to prepare more food for the kids and Fisher took over handing out the frozen yogurt pops, which were made with local Greek yogurt from Hastings Farm in Suffield and lightly sweetened with honey from Drew’s Honeybees in Norwich.

Fisher received an early review from a first-grader named Amelia, who walked back to the cafeteria to tell the staff how much she liked breakfast.

“I really love the yogurt,” she said. “I like the toppings and sprinkles on the bottom and the yogurt tastes good.”

Participation in the breakfast program is less than lunch participation and Fisher and her team are working to counter that.

Thursday was smoothie day at Vernon Center Middle School and the inventory was sold out by the time classes started.

“We offer a nutritious breakfast every day and we want more kids to take advantage of that,” she said.

Two days earlier, students at VCMS sampled tropical parfaits with Hastings Farm vanilla
yogurt and homemade granola.

“Our goal every day is a healthy and enjoyable meal for our students,” Fisher said. “We want them to have the energy to learn and we hope they’ll try new things, be open to different foods and develop healthy nutrition habits that will serve them well long after they leave school.”

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