$60k awarded to 16 schools for breakfast programs

This just in from Helena about nearly $60,000 in privately funded grants that will help fund breakfast programs for healthier, more-focused students:

Sixteen Montana schools are about to take a very important step for the health and future of their students and their communities – and it all starts with making sure that every day starts with a healthy breakfast.

Governor Steve Bullock and First Lady Lisa Bullock announced today that a total of $59,600 in privately funded grants have been awarded to 16 schools across Montana to assist them in starting new breakfast programs and expanding participation in existing programs. All of these schools have pledged to adopt innovative approaches to school breakfast, such as serving breakfast in the classroom or offering a “grab-and-go” style that appeals to teens on the go.  These grants will help make healthy school breakfast accessible to the 7,000 Montana students who attend these schools, more than 60 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.

“Every Montana student should start the school day with a healthy breakfast that ensures they’re ready to learn. We are thrilled to see that so many Montana educators are recognizing the value of making breakfast a part of their school day, and that private businesses are stepping up to make this a reality for Montana students,” said Governor Bullock. “Breakfast at school is an important step we can take in our fight against childhood hunger.”

These schools are about to join more than 90 other Montana schools that make breakfast a part of the school day, whether they serve it in the classroom at the start of the day, or from a hallway kiosk between school periods. Participation in these innovative, accessible breakfast programs is more than twice as high, on average, than when breakfast is served before school in the cafeteria. Montana teachers are already seeing the difference in their students’ behavior, attendance and ability to pay attention during morning lessons.

These observations align with national studies that have found that school breakfast is associated with lower rates of tardiness, fewer referrals to the school nurse, and fewer disciplinary incidents. Research also shows that students who eat breakfast at school perform 17 percent better on math tests compared to those who eat at home or do not eat breakfast at all.

The 16 schools that were awarded grants in this grant round are:

  • Browning Middle School (Browning) – $3924
  • Browning High School (Browning) – $5000
  • Washington Middle Elementary (Miles City) – $2711
  • Longfellow Elementary (Great Falls) – $5000
  • Whittier Elementary (Great Falls) – $5000
  • Cornelius Hedges Elementary (Kalispell) – $5000
  • Elrod Elementary (Kalispell) – $2129
  • Lakeside Elementary (Somers) – $4998
  • Columbia Falls High School (Columbia Falls) – $1000
  • Troy Junior-Senior High (Troy) – $5000
  • Stevensville Elementary (Stevensville) – $2675
  • Billings West High School (Billings) – $2600
  • Riverside Middle School (Billings) – $4964
  • Elysian Schools (Billings) – $4000
  • Canyon Creek School (Billings) – $666
  • Custer School District (Custer) – $4910

The grants were made possible through generous donations from the Walmart Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Share our Strength, AT&T and a personal donation from Harald Herrmann with Round It Up America. Award funds are intended to help schools to pay for essential equipment and infrastructure such as grab-and-go kiosks or carts for delivering meals to classrooms; programs are expected to be self-sustaining thereafter. This is the second round of school breakfast grants. Last November, the Governor and First Lady awarded $55,000 to 20 Montana schools.

The Bullocks launched the Montana Breakfast after the Bell initiative to increase participation in school breakfast and make it a part of the school day by serving it after the school day begins. The initiative aims to ensure that all kids can have a healthy start to the day by helping schools adopt proven breakfast models that increase participation, such as breakfast in the classroom and grab n’ go breakfasts. One of the most effective ways to significantly boost school breakfast participation is to make it part of the school day.

Schools interested in starting a new breakfast program and/or making breakfast part of the school day can contact the Montana No Kid Hungry School Breakfast Coordinator, Rosie Cody at RCody@mt.gov or by phone at 444-3925.

No Comments »


Lt Gov announces SMART Schools Challenge to use less energy, promote health

This just in:

Montana’s Lt. Gov. Angela McLean, who worked as a teacher for two decades, today announced a new challenge to the state’s public schools.

Here’s the deets:

It’s no secret that Montana schools are doing amazing and innovative things. Students today have opportunities to earn college credit in high school, get hands on career training in college and gain valuable skills in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields in elementary and middle school. Through these efforts, students are achieving and succeeding in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago.

For 20 years, I had a front row seat to these exciting and inspirational student successes. And in my new position as Lieutenant Governor, I want to make sure schools have all of the tools and resources to expand on the good work they’re already doing. It’s with that in mind that this week I’ll be kicking off my SMART Schools Challenges. Through this effort, we’ll challenge Montana schools to use less energy and promote student health. It’s pretty simple, if we use less energy and promote student health, we will save schools money that can be used on classroom instruction.

The reality is that schools in the U.S. spend more than $6 billion a year on energy. Many cite their energy bill as being the largest yearly expense. While we know this, we also know that implementing simple behavioral and operational measures to be smart about energy consumption can shave up to 30 percent off of a school’s yearly energy bill. When we save money on energy use, we shore up money for other things schools need, like computers and technology upgrades.

Over the coming days, I’ll be traveling to communities across the state to highlight some of the work that is already being done as part of these challenges. In many schools, students are leading the way on conservation and health promotion.

We’ll make sure to let you know when I’m in your community, but in the meantime, go to SMARTSchools.mt.gov to learn more about the challenges, and steps schools can take to save money and promote student health.

Lt. Gov. Angela McLean

No Comments »

More “storks”

The stork’s not the only game in town for delivering babies anymore.

Options for where moms can give birth in Missoula are varied between Community Medical Center, complete with the highest level of neonatal intensive care unit available; The Birth Center, with its relaxed, homelike atmosphere (and no epidurals); and having a midwife attend to your bedside (really with no epidurals).

This combination has worked to handle a steady number of  births for several years.

But health care in Missoula promises growth in the coming years.

Health care as an industry is Missoula’s No. 1 labor earnings generator (no pun intended, swear), and as soon as June 2015, Providence St. Patrick Hospital says they will join in OB, newborn and pediatric services.

Although they’ve been mum on details so far, they did say they’ll offer a Level II NICU, a level below Community’s.

Whether there are enough births to go around, without services and outcomes for moms and babies suffering, remains the question.

Babies will always be part of health care and while Missoula’s population isn’t growing quickly, it’s not declining either, said Bryce Ward, who heads up health care research at UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

“It will work itself out, particularly as long as Missoula continues to grow,” Ward said of the expanded services. “More babies will be delivered here and whatever capacity St. Pat’s ultimately creates will probably end up getting utilized over the long term.”

In the meantime, Missoula women still have a wide array of options for how to bring their babies into the world.

No Comments »

How well are Montana kids?

Not sure how much weight to give this data considering that base-years and most-recent-years data used to complete the annual Kids Count Data Book vary, but the overall trend is that well-being of Montana kids is declining.

But Thale Dillon, who heads up Montana Kids Count, said not to put much weight on Montana’s three slot drop in the national report compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“We are working in the right direction in most areas,” she said. “I think making a big deal out of our three-spot drop in ranking is not necessarily meaningful because what we should look at is how we’re moving ahead in these areas – not necessarily how we’re moving in relation to other states.”

While Montana retained its rank of 14 in the family and community area and remained No. 50 for children’s health, the state also dropped from 15 to 25 for economic well-being and from 13 to 21 in education.

“Even though we didn’t do poorly necessarily, other states did much better,” Dillon said of the declines in economic well-being and education.

There were bright spots in the data, including that more high school students are graduating on time and that teen births and drug and alcohol abuse are down.

Also, more children also have access to health insurance. However, Montana remains last in state rankings for health.

Here’s how we stack up against the national data.

No Comments »

Unplug and Play Week starts today!

Let’s Move Missoula kicked off the 2014 Unplug and Play week today with a free kick-off event this afternoon at McCormick Park. If you were there then you already know all about it. If you weren’t, check out the Missoulian tomorrow for coverage.

AND, go ahead and make those plans to limit screen time for both yourself and the kiddos for the next week (May 4-11). Here’s a lineup of events to keep the family occupied. And here’s more information about the week itself.

And now, I’m stepping away from the laptop.

UPDATE: Here’s that coverage, as promised – and a little bit early!

No Comments »

Governor Bullock, Sesame Street and healthy habits

How did I miss this?

A 45-second video of Montana’s own Governor Steve Bullock talking about healthy habits with Sesame Street’s Abby and Rosita?

Yes, please!


No Comments »

Today’s must-read: postpartum depression

It takes a lot of courage to share a story like this. Melissa Bangs deserves applause and encouragement for letting the Missoulian bring her personal story of postpartum depression to readers. Same goes for her husband, Eric Ellingson.

Read the story, and check out the related video and links.

Michael Gallacher/Missoulian

Michael Gallacher/Missoulian

No Comments »

Sick, sick, sick

Saturday night I started feeling increasingly awful. By the time 10 p.m. rolled around, I had to practically crawl to bed.

I’ve spent most of Sunday sleeping while my sweet husband holds down the household – all by himself. Right now he’s in the kitchen making cookies. No joke.

The kids always go overboard with kindness when I’m sick. They keep asking if I’m OK, wanting to bring me tissues and tea and blankets.

Good thing I hardly ever fall ill. A person could get used to this.

No Comments »

The battle against childhood obesity in Montana just got a $3 million boost

Guess what? According to the Centers for Disease Control, at last count nearly 16 percent of Montana children between the ages of 2 and 5 were overweight. More than 12 percent were considered obese (meaning their body mass index was at or above 95 percent for their age).

The figures were slightly better for high-schoolers. Montanans in grades nine through 12 were overweight at a rate of 12 percent, and slightly more than 10 percent were obese.

Why do I bring this up? Because today Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana announced that it is giving $3 million to help fight childhood obesity. Read on:

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments »

Kids Christmas present no-nos: Keys to the car, shot of whiskey or electronic device

I usually don’t enjoy shopping, but I have to say that it is fun to shop for Christmas presents for my kiddos. They’re at an age when they think everything under the sun is marvelous. The wrapping is amazing, the toy is wonderful and the box it came in is super fun, too!

Recently I got an interesting email from the Environmental Health Trust warning parents not to buy electronics for their kids. I’ll refrain from comment and just share the message, below:

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments »