FORT LAUDERDALE, FL -- The widespread underuse of the federally funded free school breakfast program has received a good deal of recent news coverage. Star Foods here reports that a recent study found that 21 million low-income students who could receive a free school breakfast (and lunch) do not, and that one in five children come to school hungry. Research repeatedly has shown that eating breakfast has a very positive effect on a child's performance in school. And hungry children are 31% more likely to be hospitalized, according to a report published by Share Our Strength, in partnership with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Joe Gilbert, head of Star Food Healthy Express, says it just does not have to be this way. "No child should go hungry, ever," he emphasized. "We have federal programs to make sure our kids get fed, and our Star Food machine serves breakfast, lunch or snacks in 20 seconds with just a few PINpad presses."
Star Food, a major vending machine program for schools, makes use of venders that communicate with the school's own POS system, so the student gets fed simultaneously with the appropriate update to the school's records. Students need only enter a personal identification number at the machine to activate the system, which not only tracks meals served to recipients, but also enables parents to look online to see whether their children got breakfast or lunch, and what was on the menu that day.
Star Food reports that a large urban school district in the Midwest saw breakfast participation increase by 10% almost immediately after Star Food Healthy Express reimbursable meal vending machines were placed at building entrances, so students could access breakfast when they arrived on campus. The breakfast numbers continue to grow, and the district is preparing to bring in more machines to feed more kids.
Nationwide, Star Food added, it has witnessed a 25% to 28% increase when lunch is offered and the machines have been available for a while, after the students have gotten used to this fresh, high-tech option.
"We have partnerships with organizations across the country to provide these machines in schools," Gilbert explained. "The machines can go anywhere the kids are: near the bus, by their lockers or in the cafeteria."
Star Food Healthy Express is based at 4800 NW 15th Ave., Ste. B, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309.