The Tullahoma City Schools Nutrition Department has taken new steps to give every child an opportunity to have a good meal.
According to Director of Nutrition Angela Cardwell, several schools in the district have new food carts that offer a “second chance” at breakfast and lunch.
Robert E. Lee Elementary School has been operating a grab-and-go breakfast option for three years, Cardwell said, but “the method of delivery was lacking.”
Thanks to “breakfast grants,” as she called them, Cardwell said she has been able to update the delivery systems for grab-and-go breakfasts at Lee, East Middle School, West Middle School and Tullahoma High School.
Lee now has two different breakfast carts, including one at the back entrance to the school and one in the front.
According to Cardwell, these expanded breakfast options allow students more opportunities to start their school day with a healthy, nutritious meal.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” she said. “We can fill their bellies to start their days leaning and not worrying about hunger and when lunch time will get here.”
Increasing access to healthy foods in the morning also levels the playing field for all Tullahoma students.
“Our department is striving and pushing and promoting to each school to please take advantage of so many alternative breakfast options we can implement so all students can have access,” she said.
Children often don’t choose when they get to school, she said, so not every student is able to get to school during the before-school breakfast period.
By installing these grab-and-go carts in schools, Cardwell hopes to be able to reach all students; and giving children more time to eat in the morning, she said, gives them a better chance at success in the classroom.
“If we don’t bring food to them … we are doing them a disservice,” she said.
Other alternative breakfast options offered by the TCS Nutrition Department include breakfast in the classroom at Bel-Aire Elementary School and Jack T. Farrar Elementary School (kindergarten and first grade only), as well as “second chance” breakfast after the first bell.
Serving in style
According to Cardwell, the cart at East Middle School is “a bit of a show stopper” and really draws in students who need a last-minute breakfast option in the morning.
The carts feature several shelves stocked with drinks and food options, such as specially-formulated toaster pastries and cereals, in-house made entrees and muffins.
There’s even a special tray for students to “donate” items they didn’t want to other students who may want them. This cuts down on food waste, according to DeShannon Moore, who works in the kitchen at East.
“If a student decides they don’t want a particular part of their meal, they can put it on the share table, and another student can grab the extra, so it’s not being thrown away.”
According to Moore, the cart gives students a chance to grab something either for a last-minute breakfast or even to store in their backpacks for a mid-morning snack before lunch.
“Kids are always hungry at the weirdest times,” she said.
The cart isn’t only used at breakfast time, Moore said. Once students have gone through the lunch lines, they are also encouraged to donate any unused or unwanted food items.
“Sometimes it’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich they don’t want,” she said. “It just allows the kids to get what they want [to eat]. They’re not forced to eat, but they are given more options to eat if they need to.”
According to Moore, the cart has seen positive feedback from both students and teachers, though student feedback is harder to come by.
The students are grateful for the last-minute options, Moore said, but, “like typical kids” they don’t say much. Teachers, however, have expressed gratitude in spades.
“Teachers are really grateful,” she said. “They’re really supportive of it, because they see the need of the breakfasts.”
Seeing children happy and not hungry isn’t just a concern of the nutritional staff, she said. The faculty also wants their students to be full and ready to learn.
The second chance breakfast carts aren’t the only new addition to the morning alternatives in the district. According to Cardwell, the high school will open a new breakfast/coffee cart next week.
Cardwell said it will have a variety of breakfast options, including Keurig K-Cup coffee and cold brew flavored coffees to pair with wholesome breakfast foods like muffins, bagels, fresh fruits and milk.
Not only will the cart be open for breakfast, Cardwell said, it will also have extended hours for those students who have morning open periods or those who may be late to school.
“It will be in the nook of the cafeteria and stay open until 10 a.m. each day so students can swing by at any time between classes and grab a quick bite and coffee,” she said.
Another avenue Cardwell hopes to explore in the future is bringing the Starvation Salvation Station (S3) food truck to the students in the parking lots before they enter the building.
She said her hope is to be able to begin that option after the district’s fall break, which is Oct. 4 through 11.
Once that program begins, the food truck will be parked outside the building on Wednesdays and Fridays, Cardwell said.
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.