SWANTON — Missisquoi Valley Union (MVU) Middle/High School is the top winner of the Vermont Breakfast After the Bell Challenge, increasing student participation in breakfast at the school by 642 percent.

Created by New England Dairy & Food Council and Hunger Free Vermont, the challenge encourages participating schools to increase breakfast participation and offer it after the morning bell, making it a part of the school day.

“Extensive research shows that the single most effective intervention a school can make to increase breakfast participation is to move breakfast after the bell,” said Anore Horton, the nutrition initiatives director with Hunger Free Vermont.

Franklin Northwest Supervisory Union Superintendent Winton Goodrich said in years prior, around 11 percent of students ate breakfast at MVU. This fall, however, MVU began offering universal free breakfast in the classroom to all students, increasing student participation to 89 percent.

MVU Principal Dennis Hill said the change came about when the school switched its food service program from in-house to an outside contractor, The Abbey Group. Hill said the Abbey was able to help line up the program due to their understanding of all the federal reimbursement opportunities available.

“[Now] every kid in the school has the opportunity to have breakfast every day at MVU,” he said.

To learn more about how feeding students in the morning has changed things at MVU, pick up a copy of the weekend Messenger or subscribe to our digital edition.