SALEM — It’s just past 8 a.m. in Jessica Eveleth’s fourth- and fifth-grade classroom at Carlton Elementary School. Students are sitting at their desks, eating bowls of cereal and sipping juice boxes as they read copies of Natalie Babbitt’s novel “Tuck Everlasting.”
Carlton is one of four Salem schools that have adopted a new breakfast-in-the-classroom program this fall. A free breakfast is provided for every student, every morning.
The meal is folded into the classroom’s morning routine. The kids munch on muffins, cereal, fruit, yogurt and other foods while they read, work on lessons or listen to morning announcements.
The program, funded by a $50,000 grant from the EOS Foundation, was adopted in September at Carlton. Bentley, Bates and Horace Mann schools started serving breakfast in classrooms in October.
They’ve seen a marked increased in the number of students eating breakfast, as well as a ripple effect of other benefits. Children are better able to concentrate, are better behaved and make fewer trips to the nurse with hunger-related ailments such as headaches and stomachaches.
“In the upper grades, in particular, teachers have noticed they’re gaining minutes. ... It’s a working breakfast, and in that sense, we’re gaining time on instruction,” Carlton Principal Jean-Marie Kahn said.
Carlton’s Assistant Principal, Teegan VonBurn, said the program has another benefit: Eating breakfast all together mimics a family meal.
“It’s been a positive thing socially and emotionally,” VonBurn said. “It’s just a nice start to the day; it feels like being at home.”
The program replaces the traditional method of serving breakfast in the school cafeteria. Students weren’t eating breakfast in the cafeteria — even though it was free to all students at Carlton, Bates, Bentley and Horace Mann — for a variety of reasons. Sometimes buses ran late, or the kids wanted to stay outside before school and play with their friends, said Deborah Jeffers, food services director for Salem Public Schools.