WALLINGFORD — After only offering a breakfast program in the elementary and high schools, Wallingford Public Schools began last month providing the meal in middle schools.
The Record-Journal previously reported in October that Chair of the Board of Education Tammy Raccio said the middle schools offered a grab and go breakfast program during the pandemic, prior to when the district started the program at the elementary schools.
Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Fran Thompson said it was easier for the district to offer breakfast in the middle schools when half the school population was in the building at a time.
“During the pandemic, the middle school schedule had half the school in at a time, so the delivery of it and just the staffing of it allowed it to happen. So now we have to staff it up, which we’re planning on doing, and figuring out a way to deliver it and not have it impact any of our instructional time. Right now we’re working with our middle school administrators and our food service team at both middle schools to deliver breakfast for our kids,” Thompson said in October.
The schools’ breakfast program had been previously funded through the School Meals Assistance Revenue for Transition (SMART) program. Now that these funds have run out, the meals are no longer free. Those who need financial assistance will have to submit free and reduced price meal applications online.
Food services director James Bondi said the district had to work through some unique challenges to be able to bring the program back.
“The middle schools are distinctive in the complexities of their physical layout and the amount of students in each school versus the anticipated service model,” Bondi said in October.
Thompson said to the Record-Journal on Feb. 1, that school administrators, teachers and the food services department collaborated to start providing breakfast at both Dag Hammarskjöld Middle School and James H. Moran Middle School.
“All worked together to provide breakfast to our middle school students,” Thompson said. “It has been welcomed by all, especially the students, who are able to start their day with a good meal.”
Todd Snyder, principal of Dag Hammarskjöld Middle School, and Joseph Piacentini, principal of James H. Moran Middle School, said part of this collaboration was “determining how to set up breakfast was collaborative in that both middle schools, along with Central Office staff, worked together in determining the best way for students to get a breakfast item without causing a lot of disruption in the halls first thing in the morning. Staff coverage was also an issue that we discussed.”
The number of students participating in the program grows each week, Thompson said.
“The breakfast program at the middle schools is going well,” Thompson said. “The process has been efficient, thanks to the work of the staff. In fact, our breakfast count continues to increase each week.”
At James H. Moran Middle School, Piacentini said they average around 50 students a day for breakfast.
“There are two issues that breakfast in schools tackles,” Piacentini said. “One is that we have a subset of students that either choose to not eat breakfast at home or the food is not available to them. This gives them a chance to eat when they get here. The other is that some of our students eat very early in the morning before getting on a bus or in a car. Having a quick breakfast here at school reactivates their bodies and gets them prepared to learn.”
Snyder believes the most significant part of the program is that students are now energized as soon as they enter the classroom in the morning.
“When hungry, it's difficult for anyone to focus and perform at their best,” Snyder said. “In the end, that is our focus each day.”