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Denver Public Schools Offers Free Breakfast To All Students

Studies have found that more than 50 percent of children arriving at school had not had breakfast.

Denver Public Schools is trying to change that. The district is offering free breakfast to all students regardless of financial need.

Experts said kids who eat breakfast have higher test scores, make fewer errors and are more cooperative in the classroom.

Currently 11,000 DPS students eat breakfast at school everyday but school officials hope that number doubles with the new program.

At Castro Elementary School dozens of children started their day with free fresh fruit and low sugar cereal. The free breakfast program is called Smart Start. It is the first of its kind in Colorado.

"In a district like ours where about 70 percent of kids are on free or reduced lunch, it's important to be able to provide more meals and more healthy, nutritious meals," said Theresa Pena, Board of Education President.

Each breakfast will offer 25 percent of the recommended daily allowance for calcium, protein, and essential vitamins.

Nutrition is not the only reason school administrators want to encourage kids to eat breakfast.

"There's less tardiness. There are less trips to the student nurse. There's less rowdiness in class," said Leo Lesh, Food and Nutrition Director. "So kids are more prepared to learn and for us that's the bottom line. A hungry child cannot learn."

The free meals will be available in three ways: breakfast in the cafeteria, in the classroom or a grab-and-go option. School officials said that many families live with tight budgets and busy schedules, so parents don't always have the time or money to make sure their kids are eating breakfast at home.

"It's hard for kids sometimes to get ready for school and have breakfast so to have that option here we think is going to make a difference," said Pena.

Smart Start is being funded through the Federal Department of Food and Nutrition Services.