LINCOLN COUNTY, Tenn. (WHNT) -- Every morning at Highland Rim School in Lincoln County, students roll bags of breakfast to classrooms.
It's part of the Breakfast in the Classroom initiative adopted school-wide this year, says Principal Debbie Foster. It brings breakfast from the cafeteria directly to the students' desks, and it's free for any student who qualifies for free or reduced meals. She says it began as a pilot program last year in grades 4-8, but has now been extended to the other grades at Highland Rim after it went so well and the logistics have been perfected.
"It does not detract from anything in the classroom. That was one of the concerns [initially] for our teachers," she explained. She said originally, they wondered if it would be a distraction. "I was hesitant," she said, "and instead of taking away from the classroom it has enhanced the classroom instruction."
Foster says since starting the program in her school, breakfast program participation has tripled. As of our interview, she said 350 students, about half the school, take part in it now.
Breakfast in the Classroom is an initiative that School Nutrition Program Supervisor Stephanie Britt wants to see in all the Lincoln County Schools, but says right now the goal is to get it into all five elementary schools by the end of the semester. It will be phased in, she says, and South Lincoln Elementary and Blanche schools are next on the list.
"It's very principal-driven," she explained.
The motivation for starting this program stems from research that students work better in the classroom, test better, and are more engaged after eating breakfast, she said. "Some students don't have the chance or just don't have the time some mornings to eat," said Britt. "Making a better situation, or a better environment for those kids will help in learning. We like to say we're preparing the palette for learning."
It's a need in the community, she says, that the schools hope to serve better through this program.
"Our free and reduced demographic is running between 55 and 60% [for] kids that qualify," said Britt. "I can't think of anything better for us than to provide the most that we can possibly provide for our children."