The Second Chance Breakfast program has only been running since January, but that hasn’t stopped groups from all over Kansas from noticing the positive impact it is having on students.
Shelly Gunderson, Nutrition Services Director for Geary County USD 475, is being honored this month with the Sunflower Spotlight Award for her efforts in implementing this program for Geary County Schools. Gunderson has been with Geary County Schools for 27 years and has spent the last 14 years ensuring that students in the district have access to a wide variety of nutritious meals available for breakfast and lunch.
The Kansas State Department of Education Child Nutrition and Wellness Team gives the Sunflower Spotlight award to recognize individuals that implement exemplary best practices in Child Nutrition Programs. They feel that the Second Chance Breakfast program is a perfect example of what exemplary means, especially because it has a positive impact on so many students.
Gunderson became familiar with the positive benefits of this program more than three years ago, when she helped implement a similar program at Junction City High School. She saw the success from that implementation but did not anticipate the high level of success she is seeing at the middle school level.
Junction City Middle School and Fort Riley Middle School both implemented this program Jan. 13, 2020. Gunderson applied for federal grant funds to use for the breakfast carts that are used for the program. She then ensured the carts were stocked with healthy options and available to students. Both middle schools have seen a significant increase in students that take advantage of breakfast offerings, since the program began. Both schools have seen near a ten-fold increase in students that now eat breakfast at school.
Federal guidelines are very strict for foods served in schools. While the food options offered look the same as what you can get in a store or restaurant, they must meet very strict requirements on sugar and salt content, have no trans fats, and must use whole grains. The nutritional guidelines for food served in schools were established by the USDA, and schools have an obligation to follow those guidelines so that students are eating healthy foods while they are in school. That also means that Gunderson had to ensure that all the offerings in the cart met the federal guidelines and were appealing to the students, which can be a daunting task.
Gunderson is quick to point out that the success of this program is also attributed to those running it in the schools. She emphasizes that the principals, nutrition secretaries, and cafeteria staff are all vital to ensuring that the students are able to have quick access to the carts, that the carts are stocked and restocked, and that they are able to quickly serve all students that want to eat breakfast.
Gunderson will receive her Sunflower Spotlight award during the annual child nutrition conference March 28, which is being held in Mulvane this year.