By Richard Rourk
On March 6, Unicoi County High School was presented with the 2019 No Kid Hungry Tennessee Breakfast Champion award thanks to its successful Second Chance Breakfast program.
The Second Chance Breakfast program at UCHS started in 2012 and it continues to give students a second chance at the most important meal of the day.
“We started in 2012 and we served roughly more than 1,500 students a month,” Unicoi County Schools School Food Service Director Maggie Fair told The Erwin Record. “The next year we moved the program out into the commons (area at the high school) and we were serving roughly more than 4,000 a month.”
By 2014, Second Chance Breakfast was serving roughly more than 7,500 students a month. “We are averaging 327 students a day and that average includes days, like snow days and senior week, when there is little to no one here, so we are doing really good,” Fair said.
Also on March 6, UCHS students and staff had a round table discussion to discuss the award-winning program and its impact on the school.
“The staff is super nice and they all know my name and ask me about my day, which means a lot,” UCHS student Brandolyn Thomas said.
The benefits of Second Chance Breakfast are easy for both the students and staff to see.
“You know some days I don’t want to wake up and eat breakfast, so to be able to come here and have the option of Second Chance Breakfast allows me to be able to get breakfast in my system, it helps me get through my day and I appreciate that,” Thomas said.
UCHS student Trent White agreed with Thomas.
“It is a great opportunity for students that may have to take their siblings to school, so they may not have time to eat,” White said. “Second Chance Breakfast allows them to get that second chance at eating breakfast and that helps them with their day.”
UCHS student Tammy Rogers also saw the benefit in the Second Chance Breakfast.
“It makes you happy,” Rogers said. “I like to eat, and I’m not always here on time.”
The program has been rewarding for the staff as well.
“It’s great to be on a first name basis with the students and to get to know them,” Unicoi County High School Food Service Manager Tracy Foster said.
It was an easy decision for the administrators to get behind the Second Chance Breakfast program.
“It was a no brainer,” Unicoi County High School Principal Dr. Chris Bogart said. “Why would schools not do this? It’s easy and so beneficial.”
Bogart elaborated on the benefits that the Second Chance Breakfast program brings to UCHS.
“We did have a bump up in the test scores since we implemented this program,” Bogart said. “It’s hard to draw a line and say that the program was the sole reason, as we were doing other things, but I am positive that it is a piece of the success. There is no instructional negative to it, only positive.”
Bogart acknowledged that the teachers saw the positive influence of the Second Chance Breakfast program as well.
“The instructional benefits far outweigh any distractions,” he added.
Bogart explained that the “old school” way of thinking that students shouldn’t have food in the class is outdated.
“If that biscuit is keeping those students from learning in your classroom, that’s a you problem, not a biscuit problem; let’s be honest,” Bogart said.
Fair followed up Dr. Bogart’s point.
“I had a veteran teacher come up to me and thank me, stating that her students are more focused and attentive, and that surprised me,” Fair said.