Most important meal of the day served up by Gov. Shapiro
Gov. Josh Shapiro, state lawmakers, and representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Education surprised Colonial Elementary School students by serving them breakfast on June 1.
Fourth- and fifth-graders who entered the cafeteria eagerly accepted strawberry-topped French toast sticks and bagels from the governor, who also gave out a lot of fist bumps (and even signed a few arms) as students filed through the cafeteria. The visit was part of Gov. Shapiro’s push to continue the free universal breakfast program. Gov. Shapiro is seeking $38.5 million in next year’s budget for the program.
“We need to have universal free breakfast, it’s why I put it in my budget, and why I’m working together with Democrats and Republicans to get this budget passed with universal free breakfast,” he said.
The universal free breakfast started last year under former Gov. Tom Wolf. This initiative followed nearly two years of free school meals due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Colonial was chosen by the state as a location for the governor’s visit because the school district has seen a 175-percent increase in breakfast participation at Colonial Elementary School and Plymouth Whitemarsh High School since 2018.
Part of this is due to the free meals, but it is also due to the many offerings that students get to choose from at Colonial School District. Fifth-graders Maci Pagano and Grace Roche said they often get breakfast before school and some of their favorites include the whole grain Pop Tarts, 100-percent juice boxes, and fruit cups. When told why the Governor was visiting, the girls said they think it is important for students to have a good breakfast before starting school.
“Yeah, because it gives you your fuel for the day,” said Maci. “Your breakfast should be your most important meal of the day.”
Gov. Shapiro was joined behind the serving line by Rep. Mary Jo Daley and Sen. Vincent Hughes. On the other side of the cafeteria, students were served by Dr. Khalid N. Mumin, Acting Secretary of Education, Sen. Maria Collett, and Rep. Greg Scott. When breakfast ended, Gov. Shapiro stayed to chat with a few students who asked for his autograph.
“The kids were awesome - they were super fun,” he said. “I will say the French toast sticks beat out the cini-minis and crushed, crushed the bagels. Cereal made a bit of a comeback toward the end, but overall French toast sticks win big.”
After the governor departed, Dr. Mumin, Sen. Collet, Rep. Scott, Rep. Daley, and Vonda Ramp, State Director of Child Nutrition Programs, visited Plymouth Whitemarsh High School. Although breakfast had already been served to students, Food Services Director Lori McCoy showed the representatives the school’s juicer, which provides the option of freshly squeezed orange juice for students, as well as some of the different meal options like scratch-made breakfast pizza.
In addition to serving free breakfasts, Colonial School District has been providing assistance to families who may need it to pay for school lunches. Recognizing that not all families qualify for free/reduced meal guidelines, the Colonial School District Education Foundation provided funding to the district to assist families who may not make the cut-off but are still experiencing financial hardships. About 100 students a day have been receiving lunch for free thanks to this funding.