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  • By Lisa Brody

Program launched to feed all hungry students

In an effort to eradicate hunger from Oakland County schools, on Thursday, March 7, the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, in partnership with Oakland Schools and United Way for Southeastern Michigan, launched the Oakland County Better with Breakfast initiative to bring universal breakfast to thousands of students across Oakland County.

“Oakland County will be the first county in Michigan to launch a universal breakfast program of this scale, so students don’t start school hungry,” said county board chairman David T. Woodward (D-Royal Oak), who led the creation of the initiative. “Learning is harder when you’re hungry. We’re going fix that problem for thousands, so they all have better opportunities in school.”

“All students, regardless of socio-economic status, should have access to breakfast,” said President & CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan Dr. Darienne Driver. “The Better with Breakfast initiative is a model that works, which is why we’re committed to partnering with municipalities, school districts and others to remove barriers and ensure more children across the region may benefit from this alternative breakfast program.”

Studies consistently show that child nutrition and academic performance are linked. The goal of the initiative is to expand free breakfast to students in eligible schools across Oakland County through this collaboration. Oakland County Schools will partner with United Way to create a custom breakfast plan for each targeted school in the county. Woodward pointed out that it is the largest countywide effort to expand school breakfast in the state, and it applies proven best practices already in place in some area schools.

The initiative is being launched with funding from Oakland County and Oakland Schools. It will be phased in over the next three years. Participating schools will receive new equipment, technical assistance for implementation and funding for non-reimbursable meal costs. Nearly 70 schools across the county are being targeted with the goal of providing more than 3,500 students with access to free breakfast at school every day. At full implementation, the program is expected to draw down $1.2 million in additional funding through federal reimbursements, with that money going directly back into these schools.

“Oakland Schools is proud to support the Oakland County Better with Breakfast program. Through this unprecedented partnership, expanding breakfast access to eligible schools across the county will enable students to focus on learning. The Oakland County Better with Breakfast program is a necessity and Oakland Schools is delighted to be a partner,” said Oakland Schools Superintendent Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson.

“We’re investing in our kids today so we can all enjoy a better future,” Woodward said.

Woodward and the other key partners say they hope the success of the Oakland County Better with Breakfast model will engage state lawmakers and prompt support from the Michigan legislature, making it possible to scale this program statewide.

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