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School district says breakfast in classroom program improving academics and behavior

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SALT LAKE CITY -- We've all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that's especially true for young students.

Unfortunately, many young people don’t get a morning meal, but a new program is trying to change that.

The breakfast in the classroom program started on April 1 as a pilot program at Backman Elementary and three other schools. The program replaces a former plan that provided breakfast for students but required them to arrive early. That was a problem for many students and their parents.

Now, students get in line about 10 minutes to 8 a.m., and within about 20 minutes they are at their desks and eating breakfast.

Faculty members said they are already seeing improvements in both academics and behavior.

"We're really excited with the changes that we've been seeing, our students are no longer hungry when they come to class because they've had breakfast,” said Megan King, a fourth grade teacher at Backman Elementary School.

Tardiness has all but gone away, and staff members report that kids don't seem to be acting out as much and say they have the energy they need to be successful in school.

"The main thing we're hearing is that it's a much more calm environment, they eat, it gives them a chance to talk a little bit, then it goes to their tummies and then they're just ready to learn,” said Katie Kapusta, a child nutrition programs supervisor for Salt Lake School District.

All of the students can now have breakfast in the pilot schools, which have a high percentage of students who qualify for a free or reduced price lunch. At Backman, 97 percent of the students participate in the program.

"It is widely seen as a successful program in our school, and teachers have told me they wouldn't ever go back,” Principal Heather Newell said.

If the program is a success, and especially if it helps raise test scores, the plan is to implement the program in other schools.

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