School of the Osage has joined a growing number of Missouri school systems offering free breakfast to all students. In January, Osage unveiled the free breakfast program, and so far, it couldn't be going any better. Breakfast is now served to all 1,700+ students each morning.

School of the Osage has joined a growing number of  Missouri school systems offering free breakfast to all students. In January, Osage unveiled the free breakfast program, and so far, it couldn’t be going any better. Breakfast is now served to all 1,700+ students each morning. 

Osage Deputy Superintendent Laura Nelson said the free breakfast program is an outcome of a system the district uses with staff to focus on programs and projects that matter and to monitor the results using scorecards. 

The district’s food service director, Cindy Hutzler, used her scorecard to illustrate a concurring lack of participation in the breakfast program by students who qualify for free and reduced meals. 

“We looked into the situation, a bit deeper and hypothesized that this was due to several factors, all of which we could address if we focused on feeding all students, Nelson said. “Our school board was adamant and highly supportive of launching a pilot to see if this would work. We did so  in the Pk-5 setting last fall, and we were delighted to learn that the project was cash flowing well. This was due to the fact that participation increased and therefore so did the money we were able to recoup via state reimbursement. We learned from students, parents, food service staff, bus drivers, and teachers that this program was truly making a difference.”

Last fall, then the outcomes of the project were presented, the school board was, again, on board to expand the project to all grades. When school resumed after the winter break, the middle school and high school were added to the program.  When Mrs. Hutzler presented our pilot outcomes last fall, our school board was once again adamant that we expanded the project to include all grades. 

Nelson said the district has a diverse student population, but whether they come from poverty of affluence, they are all influenced to some degree or another by what their friends think is acceptable. 

“Our breakfast plan hinges on the fact that the adults in the system insist that all students go through the breakfast line. They don't have to eat, but they do have to go through the line,” Nelson said. “The approach has leveled the playing field, making it ok to get food to the students who need it most. It doesn't matter what type of home students come from, some mornings the hustle makes it hard to get breakfast. We are proud to say, it doesn't matter. We've got it covered.” 

Eldon and Macks Creek are two other lake area school systems that offer free breakfast to all students. Providing breakfast ensures students who otherwise might do without, have the opportunity to start their day fueled and ready to learn.