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Morning Snack Helps Children Excel in Marin

At West Marin Elementary School, every morning at 10:15 a.m. the students know it’s snack time. 
They file one by one on the door out to the playground, and grab a mandarin on the way. Last week it was string cheese, and several weeks before, baby carrots.
“It helps the children in their development because it’s a healthy snack,” says Guadalupe Aparicio, a parent volunteer. “If they’re hungry when they come to school, they’re lethargic and don’t want to study. Now, with the snack, they have more energy and can pay attention.”
After eating the miniature oranges, the class of second graders plays jump rope and chats excitedly on picnic tables. Following the break, class begins again.
The concentration employed by teacher Luis Burgos’ class is impressive. Burgos teaches the biggest class in the school – 25 students – and all of them are engrossed in their work. They pour over their language arts work individually and in small groups, reading, writing and sounding out words.
“The snack helps them a lot,” Burgos says. “Before the morning snack program, I would often hear ‘I’m hungry.’ I haven’t heard that since.”
Before the Food Bank started delivering morning snack to the school, and its sister campus, Inverness, about 70 percent of the students brought their own snack to school. But the others often complained of being hungry, some of them not having eaten any breakfast.
Lourdes Romo, the school’s family advocate, says one of the reasons the program is so appealing is that you never know which families need help with food and which don’t. The morning snack provided by the Food Bank is distributed to all students – so no one is singled out – or left out.
“A lot of the kids in the middle income bracket might not qualify for free or reduced price lunch but might still need a snack,” Romo says. “There’s no stigma here. Everyone eats morning snack.”
With breakfast at $1.75 and lunch at $3.35, Romo says it’s not unusual to see families with more than one child rack up $300 monthly lunch bills. What’s more is that while healthy food in Pt. Reyes is abundant, the price can leave it out of reach for many families.
“You could spend $5 to buy a few beautiful, organic apples,” Romo says.
Many students at the elementary come from rural areas, so transportation schedules also play a role in children needing a mid-morning refuel for optimal learning.
When children wake up at 6:30 a.m. and catch the bus at 7:15, lunch is a long time from breakfast.
“The snack really helps them concentrate,” Burgos says of his class. “This is a great program. It’s very beneficial for the kids and I hope more schools participate.”