School lunches improve attendance

Student attendance in public schools increases on the three days per week the government schools provide lunch. Pictured is Rita Elementary School teacher Mariano Abin working with his class. Photo: Asian Development Bank.

EVE BURNS
The lunch program for public schools has always been a big help to local schools, particularly in student attendance, which is measurably higher on days with provided lunches.

Delap Elementary School Vice Principal David Robert told the Journal that the lunch program helps with the school attendance. The school sees a 10-15 percent improvement in attendance on the days with lunch. He said on days with lunch, they see up to 95 percent attendance. On the “off” days, only 80 percent of students may show up to school.

Laura Elementary School Principal Lanta Elbon said that the lunch program really helps students whose families don’t have any source of income to provide lunches for their children.

Food is important for the growth of the students and the school sees a difference in attendance during the days they have lunches at school, Elbon said, adding that students are more dedicated and don’t miss school on the Monday-Wednesday-Friday free lunch schedule.

Since the start of the new school year in mid-August, public schools are continuing the lunch program using up the rest of last school year’s budget. Schools started on different dates but they all have 18 days for lunches for the seven weeks from last month’s school start to the end of September, which is the end of the fiscal year.

The principals and vice principals that the Journal met up with all said that if the students were getting lunch five days a week and don’t have to go home for lunch it would be easy to keep the student safe and in class, rather then letting them leave campus to go home — or elsewhere — for lunch.

Rita Elementary School Principal Rod Nakamura, Jr. said that a recent PTA meeting discussed parents bringing in lunches on days that schools doesn’t provide lunch. But it became a challenge because some parents have children in different schools and it’s difficult for them to take lunches to three different locations. Or if students just head home for lunch, the one school bus cannot drop off and pick up kids during the lunch hour and have them back on time for afternoon classes, he said. The school has over 700 students currently enrolled.

For safety of the students, DES Vice Principal David thinks getting lunch for the students five days is good. The main disadvantage is the school has its their trash bin filled with trash from the takeout lunches provided.

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