ARMA — Northeast elementary and middle schools began the school year with a new breakfast program aimed at increasing student productivity by filling students with the proper nutrients.

The schools were awarded a $10,000 grant in May called Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom. Marilyn Neil, food service director, said the program requires students to eat breakfast in the classroom, which has eliminated any stigma that “only poor kids eat breakfast in the cafeteria.” The program has also increased students eating breakfast at school.

“We went from participation of about 220 kids a day, to about 300,” Neil said.

Mainly, the $10,000 grant pays for carts to transport the food, coolers and training teachers on the requirements of a reimbursable meal.

Students are required to take three items – including a fruit – in order for the school to receive a federal reimbursement. Otherwise, the district will be responsible for the entire price of the meal.

In the middle school, students grab the meal off a cart and bring it to class. The elementary school students are each given breakfast in class.

The bell rings at 8 a.m. and student have 10 minutes to eat their breakfast. Neil said any late students can still get breakfast in the cafeteria.

Northeast Superintendent of Schools Greg Gorman said breakfast should have little interference with class time, if any.

“Even if it takes five minutes out of the classroom, those are five minutes that are pretty important that kids get proper nutrition,” he said.

According to the American Dietetic Association, students who eat breakfast perform better in the classroom, have better concentration, problem-solving skills and hand-eye coordination.

The schools applied for the grant back in March, and will try the program for three years. The high school was not eligible because the grant requires 80 percent of students to already receive breakfast.

Around 78 percent of students in the elementary and middle schools receive free or reduced lunch, Neil said, but the district was given some wiggle room. As a whole, the district has around 74 percent of students receiving free or reduced lunch.