Mechanicsville students champions of breakfast State honors school for nutrition quest

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In a county dotted with dairy farms and a huge egg-laying operation, it should be no surprise that yet another Carroll school has won the statewide Breakfast Quest contest.

Mechanicsville Elementary School in Gamber celebrated its award yesterday with a visit from state and local officials, and an appearance by "That Milk Thing," the blue fur-suited mascot of the dairy industry.

It is the second county school to win in the past four years. Manchester Elementary won the designation in 1994.

The award is for creative ways students and teachers find to educate children and families about the importance of a nutritious breakfast.

"This takes a lot of teamwork to win this award," state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick told the 632 students. "In the state of Maryland, we have 1,265 schools. Do you know how special you are to win this award for your breakfast program?"

The award was $3,500 to be used for nutrition education programs for children and staff members.

As the officials ate a continental breakfast on the gymnasium stage, children filed into the gym with yellow bagged breakfasts of muffins, apples and milk.

"You're doing wonderful here," Grasmick said. "Children who eat breakfast on a regular basis do better in their schoolwork and in their tests."

The school won the contest by developing a program last year in which children volunteered for activities, such as keeping a weeklong log of what they ate and drank for breakfast, and interviewing parents and grandparents about what breakfast foods were popular when they were children.

"We wanted to extend it to the home," said Martin Tierney, assistant principal at Mechanicsville. "We really thought if we pull in the family, we would have more of an impact."

The school also brought in the business community, with a nearby Roy Rogers restaurant offering coupons for children who completed activities.

Although every activity was voluntary, participation was between 80 percent and 100 percent on all of them, Tierney said.

The week's log of breakfast was eye-opening. Cafeteria manager Patty Therit brought several students to the stage to demonstrate five breakfasts reported by children.

She lined up five brown paper bags numbered 1 to 5.

Stephanie Kratz, a second-grader, opened the first bag to find a Pop-Tart and a can of Sprite.

"That stuff in the center is not really fruit," Therit said of the Pop-Tart.

Jarrod Randall, a fourth-grader, opened a bag that contained a box of cereal and a carton of milk. Much better, Therit said.

Dominic Balassone, a first-grader, opened a third bag and found it empty -- many children said they skipped breakfast.

"When you don't have time to eat at home, you can buy breakfast at school," Therit said.

Second-grader Gabrielle Balassone opened a bag with a bagel and orange juice -- two good choices, Therit said.

Crystal Gray, a fifth-grader, found in her bag a can of Coca-Cola and a package of TastyKake pastries.

"These are actual things that our students told us they had for breakfast," Therit reminded everyone.

Pub Date: 10/01/96

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