District 186 Prepared To Feed Students In Wake Of New Law

A new law that took effect January 1st that mandates that all schools districts in Illinois provide some kind of meal to students. The ‘Breakfast After the Bell’ program aims to ensure no student goes to class hungry.

Some schools though across the state have already had meal programs in place. Matheny Withrow Elementary in Springfield got a head start on implementing this program, Sensing that the state would eventually approve a law like this, requiring schools to provide students with a meal regardless of when they show up for class, staff implemented their own program back of the beginning of the school year in August.

Inside Matheny Withrow, roughly 90 percent of the students enrolled are considered low-income. That is about 20 percent higher than the district 186 average of roughly 70 percent.

Kathy Hulcher, the principal at Matheny Withrow Elementary, says they are already noticing the benefits.

"We have experienced less visits to the nurse. That is one thing we are kind of tracking because there was a pattern. Many students would be hungry, their tummy hurt, and their reaction was, 'Can I go see the nurse?' So visits to the nurse have decreased, academic performance has increased."

Principal Hulcher added that they have noticed that when students are not going through school hungry their grades go up on average and their attendance is also higher.

The program is still new so it is not yet clear what the long-term benefits will be. However, staff say a law like this is well overdue and they are happy that they can now feed these kids.

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