SMITHFIELD, RI – Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green and the U.S. Department of Agriculture today joined students, educators, and nutrition leaders at Smithfield High School to celebrate National Breakfast Week (March 7-11) and highlight federal, state and local efforts to fuel students for success.
“School breakfast is critical to getting students the nutrition they need to feel and perform their best,” Commissioner Infante-Green said. “By ensuring our schools provide balanced, nutritious meals to start their day, we are eliminating hunger and restlessness, and increasing focus and learning.”
Thanks to flexibilities provided by the USDA, breakfast is available to all students at no cost throughout the academic year. National School Breakfast Week first launched in 1989 to raise awareness of the availability of the School Breakfast Program, a federally assisted meal program operating in public and non-profit private schools and residential childcare institutions since 1975.
“This week – and every week – USDA celebrates the high-quality, delicious, and nutritious breakfasts children receive through the school meal programs,” said Christine Ruggieri, Deputy Regional Administrator for USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. “We are deeply grateful to the state and local leaders and school districts in Rhode Island for their efforts in making sure children are well fed – no matter what the situation. And we applaud the school nutrition professionals, who work tirelessly in the kitchens and cafeterias to provide healthy and delicious meals, sourced with local ingredients.”
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A highlight of the breakfast included the interactive smoothie bike, which is an exciting way to promote healthy lifestyles to students. Learners use their pedal power to blend nutritious beverages while getting active and refreshed. Smithfield Public Schools used Smithfield Farm-to-School grant funding to purchase the bike and increase access to local foods.
“Smithfield is in a prime location for farm-to-school activities with an abundance of farms in our area,” Smithfield Assistant Superintendent Sara Monaco said. “The collaboration with our food service provider, Chartwells, has been essential as we strive to include more and more local foods in our school breakfast and lunch menus.”
Chartwells chefs served up breakfast burritos with locally grown Rhode Island mushrooms and onions. Other menu items included:
- Freshly made quiche featuring Narragansett Creamery Yogurt
- Breakfast parfaits featuring Narragansett Creamery Yogurt and locally grown Rhode Island spinach
- French toast topped with Rhode Island honey or New England maple syrup
- Home fries made with Rhode Island sweet potatoes from Shartner Farm
- Locally produced Shri breakfast muffins and bars
- Breakfast burritos made to order
“Offering fresh, local, and nutritious menu items gets students excited to eat breakfast at school. Incorporating variety into daily menus encourages more students to eat balanced breakfasts and supports our goal to make sure all students get the fuel they need to start their school day on the right foot,” said Sara Patterson, M.S. R.D. Northeast Region Dietitian. “We view the cafeteria as the largest classroom in the school, and through Chartwells’ Discovery Kitchen and Mood Boost programs, we give kids the opportunity to experience and learn about foods they may never have tried before.”
The event also kicked off Chartwells’ partnership with the New England Dairy Council and Farm Fresh Rhode Island to recognize dairy as the Harvest of the Month. A dairy-themed drawing contest will be held and the three elementary schools in Smithfield will receive a “Local Dairy Celebration Day” in June. The celebration will feature local dairy products and a dairy farmer.
The New England Dairy Council also partners with the New England Patriots, who sent its mascot, Pat Patriot, to get in on the fun Thursday.
March also serves as National Nutrition Month. Through RIDE’s nutrition standards and our support for food services in our schools, child and adult day care settings, and after school and summer programs, we ensure that Rhode Island children and adults have access to health meals that support their well-being and their readiness for learning. Check out RIDE’s Healthy School Meals School Breakfast Expansion Toolkit for strategies to improve breakfast and increase participation.