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School system to offer free breakfast to all

No such thing as a free lunch? Maybe not but in Henderson County public schools, free breakfast has now been extended to all students without regard to household income.

With innovation and a goal to ensure that all students begin their day with a nutritional breakfast, the Henderson County public school system announced Thursday that it has expanded its Universal Breakfast program to all 23 schools in the district.
Universal Breakfast means breakfast is available for any and all students, free of charge with no questions asked.
“We know how vital nutrition is to overall wellness and academic success, so this initiative is a big priority for HCPS,” Superintendent Mark R. Garrett said. “It’s important to us to remove as many barriers as possible to student learning, and these innovative programs are part of an ongoing commitment to our students to aid their academic success.”
Since the beginning of the current school year, the HCPS Child Nutrition Department has offered Universal Breakfast at 11 schools (Apple Valley, North Henderson, Flat Rock, East Henderson, Dana, Hillandale, Bruce Drysdale, Clear Creek, Sugarloaf, Edneyville and Upward) that serve a high population of students qualifying for free and reduced meals.
While it has long been the goal of HCPS leadership, Nutritional Services, and the school board to offer Universal Breakfast districtwide, implementation was delayed by the pandemic. During that time, the federal government removed family income requirements for nutritional services, allowing all children access to free meals. With the return to the traditional format of charging for meals by category of free, reduced price, or full pay this school year, it was determined to start implementation of Universal Breakfast, as soon as feasible.
As part of the program, HCPS will also roll out, on a staggered basis, "Breakfast in the Classroom" for all 13 elementary schools. HCPS Child Nutrition Director Robert Rolfe said this particular feature of Universal Breakfast provides students with the opportunity to start their day with a nutritious breakfast in the classroom, so as not to disturb their daily routine. Data shows that more students eat breakfast when served in the classroom environment versus being served in the cafeteria.
Another feature of the Universal Breakfast Program is what is known as the "Second Chance Breakfast," where breakfast items are available in carts located in the hallways after the first bell. Currently, Flat Rock, East Henderson, Apple Valley and North Henderson all offer the Second Chance Breakfast option. This program began in 2020, and has been highly successful in these schools. Additional concepts are being considered for the newly added middle and high schools that will encourage more students to eat breakfast.