Free breakfast set for new school year at Port Angeles elementary schools; Sequim to offer similar program first few weeks

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

All Port Angeles elementary-age students, regardless of income level, will receive a free breakfast — if they want it — beginning with the new school year Sept. 2, and all Sequim students will get free breakfasts for at least the first few weeks of school.

After recent changes to U.S. Department of Agriculture and state of Washington guidelines, Port Angeles School District officials found they could no longer offer district-provided snacks to students during morning recess.

New nutritional standards require that a fruit must be given to a student with any district-provided meal or snack.

Fruit being served during the snack program was optional, as students could take what snacks they preferred.

The district also found that they were serving too much food.

“We were essentially serving three meals within three hours,” said Tina Smith-O’Hara, spokeswoman for the district.

Although not all students had breakfast before the snack, enough did that the amount of food they were eating in a short amount of time was becoming excessive, Smith-O’Hara said.

However, the district also wants to be sure all students have a chance to eat something in the morning, she said.

Dry Creek Elementary offered free breakfasts in the 2013-14 school year as a pilot program and will continue offering free breakfasts to students.

This year, the program will be expanded to Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson and Roosevelt schools.

Most bus routes arrive at schools early enough for students to take part in the breakfast program, Smith-O’Hara said.

Parents are welcome to send their own healthy snack with their children to school in the morning if they feel they need an extra boost.

In July, the School Board approved setting elementary school breakfast prices at $1.10 per student before the new free breakfast program was enacted.

The district receives state and federal reimbursement for all student meals, at varying rates for free and reduced lunch students, as well as a portion for paying students, Smith-O’Hara said.

It was not clear yet how much the free breakfast program will cost the district.

That won’t be known until officials see how many students eat the breakfasts and how much reimbursement the school will receive, she said.

At the Sequim School District, all students — kindergarten through grade 12 — will be eligible for a free breakfast, at least from Sept. 8-26.

“After the first few weeks, we will re-evaluate the program,” said Laurie Campen, Sequim food services director.

The program is likely to be expanded into October, but there has been no decision about the rest of the school year, Campen said.

She said the district has been offering free breakfasts in the first few weeks for the last few years and has not offered the snack program.

“It’s to get kids to come in and eat breakfast, to get something before they come to class,” she said.

Districts in Jefferson County, as well as other districts in Clallam County — Quillayute Valley, Cape Flattery and Crescent school districts — offer standard free and reduced lunches for low-income students.

Crescent School District is in the process of applying for additional meal program funding but is uncertain at this time what, if any, additional options the district may be able to offer families.

Applications for free and reduced-price school lunches will be available at most schools.

A full listing of eligibility requirements, including family income limits, is available at school or district offices.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 24. 2014 6:42PM
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