Students, teachers and cafeteria workers at Albany High School enjoyed a schoolwide pep rally celebration March 14 with the New Orleans Saints Mascot Gumbo and NFL Player Josh Hill to recognize the school’s first-place finish in this year’s “No Kid Hungry School Breakfast Challenge.”

Albany High School saw the highest increase of any school in the state, bumping its breakfast participation up by 65 percent. Approximately 83 percent of Albany’s students eat a school-provided breakfast, through traditional breakfast services and the “Second Chance Breakfast” program, according to Child Nutrition Special Programs Administrator Sommer Purvis.

The Breakfast Challenge, sponsored by Gov. John Bel Edwards, compared breakfast participation from October 2017 to October 2018, Purvis said. Albany High was recognized for serving nearly 8,000 more breakfast meals in October 2018 than in October 2017.

Purvis said all Livingston Parish Public Schools students are eligible to receive a free breakfast that features a variety of hot and cold items, including whole grain pancakes, French toast sticks, sausage biscuits, granola bars, yogurt, fresh fruit and frozen pizza.

Livingston Parish Schools served nearly 2 million breakfast meals during the 2017-2018 school year, which means that roughly 51 percent of the 26,000 students in the system were eat a school-provided breakfast each day.

However, when comparing August through December 2018 to that same time frame in 2017, Purvis said 2018 saw a 21 percent increase in breakfast participation, and those numbers have continued to hold into the second semester. Livingston Parish schools served more than 1.6 million meals from August to February of the 2018-2019 school year, a jump of nearly 340,000 from the year before.

Purvis said Albany High is one of three parish schools to implement the “Second Chance Breakfast” program, whereby students get a midmorning break to pick up a “grab-and-go” breakfast from a designated area on campus. French Settlement High was the first to add the program last year, and Holden High added it in February, she said.

Most schools offer “Breakfast to Go,” where students take breakfast from designated areas on campus and eat it in hallways, picnic areas or gyms with their peers.

Another eight schools offer “Breakfast in the Classroom,” which allows students to grab a ready-made breakfast to be eaten in homerooms after the opening bell while the teacher calls roll. Live Oak High, North Live Oak Elementary, Live Oak Junior High, Springfield High and Denham Springs High added the program this school year, Purvis said.

As a winner, Albany High received a $1,000 check for its breakfast programs and the pep rally sponsored by the New Orleans Saints. Last year, French Settlement High and North Corbin Junior High won Saints pep rallies for recording the highest increases of more than 300 participating schools in the inaugural “No Kid Hungry” breakfast challenge.