Local News

Gov. Cooper announces funding for free or reduced-price school meals

More money will be rolled out to schools across North Carolina to provide for free breakfast for students.
Posted 2023-10-24T11:07:26+00:00 - Updated 2023-10-24T17:01:47+00:00
Cooper announces funding for school breakfast 'after the bell'

More money will be rolled out to schools across North Carolina to provide for free breakfast for students.

Gov.Roy Cooper announced Monday $1.4 million will be distributed through competitive grants, which is up to $50,000 for each school district.

The program is part of the governor’s School Breakfast For Brilliance Innovation Grants in partnership with the Carolina Hunger Initiative at UNC and NC Alliance for Health.

“This is working. You can’t teach a hungry child,” said Cooper. “Clearly that child is going to be more distracted and it’s going to be more difficult to make sure that they learn."

On Monday the governor visited Glenn Elementary School in Durham.

As students arrived, they picked up their bagged breakfast inside the classroom and began schoolwork.

Cooper asked the nutrition staff and teachers about the effectiveness of providing breakfast inside the classroom instead of the cafeteria.

“Obviously we’ve seen a significant uptick in the number of children who actually eat when you allow them to have it in the classroom. And everybody eats regardless of what your economic status is,” Cooper said.

Glenn Elementary began this initiative during the COVID-19 pandemic upon students returning back to school from virtual learning.

“Since COVID, participation this year has gone up 19% for breakfast. It’s impacting a lot more students. We’re feeding over 12,000 a day just for the breakfast,” said James Keaten, the director of school nutrition services.

Keaten described the significant need for a program like this in the district.

“In Durham right now, we have 29 schools on a community eligible program where all the students have free breakfast and lunch based on the need. And we’re at 64% of free and reduced kids,” he added.

The principal said the success of the initiative is also reflective in the school’s performance grade. It increased by 15 points over a two-year stretch, putting the school in the top 1% in North Carolina.

Glenn Elementary school has also exceeded growth two years in a row for the first time in school history, according to the principal.

"Breakfast after the Bell" has increased instructional time for the school by 30 minutes a day -- a total of three weeks added to the school calendar.

“And hopefully it can get more school systems more involved in this program,” Cooper said when addressing the funding for the program.

WRAL asked Cooper if the state is also on track to address universal lunch as well.

“I have proposed some funding this time to help along those lines that the General Assembly actually funded in their budget, so I think we’re moving closer and closer, but we’re not there yet,” he said.

The funding for the governor’s School Breakfast For Brilliance Innovation Grants has to be spent by next September.

Applications for schools will be available within the next month or two.