Ralston Schools going above and beyond for student nutrition

In the Ralston School District, nearly 54 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. It's why the district is finding ways to make sure kids are getting the nutrition they need during and after school.

At Ralston High School, the district is offering two unique programs -- second chance breakfast and the R-Pantry.

The district created second chance breakfast when they noticed kids were rushing into the building at the last minute and were forced to skip breakfast.

Second chance breakfast runs between first and second period, giving those who missed breakfast a chance to quiet their hunger. Kiosks are set up in the commons area and students can grab some fruit, juice, yogurt and a whole grain to eat between classes.

Assistant Principal Ryan Pivonka said the students love the options.

"If it's gonna help the students be more successful we're excited for that," he said. "They line up they're ready for it. On days when we can't offer it, it's whoa, that's the end of the world right there. They look forward to it, they plan for it and they appreciate it."

The program is funded in part by grants and by support from the Midwest Dairy Association.

Before offering this option only 10 percent of students were eating school breakfast. In the year since offering this option, that number has quadrupled. On average, 343 Ralston High students eat school breakfast.

Of those, 77 percent qualify for free and reduced price lunch. But across the board, participation is up.

That's better than most schools in Nebraska and Iowa. According to a report by the Food Research & Action Center, only 44 percent of eligible students in Iowa and 43 percent of eligible students in Nebraska are participating in school breakfast programs.

That's concerning for some educators because research shows students who don't have a healthy breakfast are more likely to act out in class, miss school, have lower test scores, and are generally less healthy.

That's why Ralston is doing whatever they can to make sure their students needs are met.

And that's not only in second chance breakfast. While that is helping kids during school, a number of students are going home to an empty stomach.

That's why students and faculty at Ralston High created the R-Pantry one year ago. It's a student-led pantry right in the high school that takes donations from the community to give to students who need it most.

Students can take any items they need, including hygiene products, home to their families. Each week about 70 students use the pantry, leading to about 800 pounds of food each month.

Students Elizabeth Byrnes and Taylor Skiles are helping with the project. They said it's so important to give back.

"It's heart warming knowing that the work I'm doing is helping a student succeed long term in their education because without food it's hard to concentrate in class," Byrnes said.

"Most people aren't gonna say, 'I need help with food,'" Skiles said. "So it's nice to reach out for them even if you don't know who it's going to because we're all Ralston students and we've all got each others backs."

If you'd like to help with the R-Pantry you can find more details at the link provided.