HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan sat at a long white table in the Burnet Elementary School cafeteria on Monday, nibbling on a chicken biscuit and chatting with the students seated alongside her.
Gathered for breakfast on the first day of school, the conversation quickly turned into an impromptu Spanish lesson as students from the dual language school translated the menu — chicken biscuits, raisins, apple juice, and milk — into Spanish.
“Leche?” Lathan repeated carefully after hearing the Spanish word for milk. A wide smile then spread across her face. “You know what I like? Tres leches. And lot of it,” she said, laughing.
The 2019-2020 school year marks the second consecutive year that Nutrition Services has offered students breakfast, lunch, and dinner at no charge through the Community Eligibility Provision — more commonly referred to as CEP.
The program allows the nation’s highest poverty schools and districts to serve meals at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications. Schools are eligible for the program if they have a certain percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced meals based on their participation in programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
In HISD, 75 percent of students are considered low income. According to the School Nutrition Association, studies have shown that students who eat breakfast have better memory and concentration, are more alert, maintain a healthy weight, perform better in reading and math, and score higher on standardized tests.
In the majority of HISD schools, breakfast is served in the classroom, integrating the meal into the first few minutes of classroom instruction.
“Serving breakfast in the classroom ensures that all students have access to a good and healthy breakfast,” HISD Nutrition Services Operations Manager Hernan Urrego said.