Once Waterman Elementary students discovered Ken Wagner is the commissioner of education for Rhode Island, they suggested he could increase their recess time if he is really in charge of Principal Paul DePalma. It was breakfast, not recess, that brought Wagner, along with the state’s “first gentleman” Andy Moffitt to the school.
The Pontiac Avenue elementary school, as part of a RIDE initiative to increase the amount of students eating breakfast in school, has 250 percent more kids eating school breakfast this year than they had last year, according to DePalma. That number leads the state and as such they were awarded $1,000 from the governor’s office.
DePalma said that he plans on distributing the cash prize to the teachers at the school, as “they’re the ones that work hard every day in the classrooms.”
The “breakfast challenge” was started by RIDE because, according to Wagner, lots of students were eating school lunches but very few were eating breakfast at school, comparatively. And because, he said, the link between school nutrition and being the best student possible is so strong, they begun this breakfast challenge.
The challenge itself was implemented in three primary models: breakfast in the classroom, “grab and go” in the cafeteria, and there’s a “second-chance” breakfast for students later in the morning. There are also two lesser-used models including breakfast on the bus and universal breakfast.
According to DePalma, Waterman mainly used the breakfast in the classroom model to get more students to eat their breakfast. He said that Aramark, the food provider for Cranston schools, brought breakfast to the classrooms in a portable cart and got the students to eat in their classrooms.
Moffitt was not only there to present the $1,000 but also to represent his own passions, as he is a former elementary school teacher. He said that as the first “first gentleman” in the state, there was no blueprint for him to work off of, so he decided to focus his efforts on the things he’s passionate about, which he said are schools, getting outside, and food.
“In Rhode Island, one out of every eight households won’t know where they’re next meal is coming from at some point during the month,” Moffitt said.
He paired his passion for students and feeding more Rhode Islanders by getting involved with the RIDE breakfast challenge.
Eleni Towns, who is a policy analyst for ‘Feeding America’ in Washington D.C., made the trip up to Rhode Island to give a citation to Waterman, as well as give out prizes including pencils and erasers for the students. She said that nutrition is among the most important aspects of a student’s life that can lead to success in school.
When asked who eats breakfast at school, nearly every Waterman student raised their hands, and because of their increase year-over-year they were given a unique gathering Thursday morning.