GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Crunchy chicken nuggets, cereal, fresh fruit, milk and juice were on the menu at Gautier Middle School on Wednesday. The hot food and warm greeting from the staff draws about 260 students to the cafeteria every morning.
"Breakfast is good, especially on biscuit days, when we get the biscuits and the grape jelly," said 8th grader Makael Calhoun.
The rising popularity of breakfast has earned Gautier first place for middle schools in the "Mississippi Breakfast Challenge". It had the highest participation increase, nearly 4 percent, comparing data in Oct. of 2014 to Oct. of 2015.
The cafeteria team credits several strategies it created to make breakfast more appetizing.
"You get a good start if you eat breakfast. It feeds the brain and they can make better grades," said Gautier Middle School Cafeteria Manager Teresa Weaver. "We come out and tell them what's on the menu. We try to make the food creative and look pretty on the line and have the menu that they like to eat."
The district also offers free breakfast to every student. Many students are now realizing why it's the most important meal of the day.
"Usually in first period, I was always tired and hungry and when I started eating breakfast, I didn't get that hungry," said Gautier Middle School 8th grader Yaneira Rodriguez.
The school will receive $1,500 to promote its Child Nutrition Program, plus, a tailgate party featuring a current or former NFL star.
"That'll be pretty cool," said Makael. "My favorite player is Cam Newton."
Beach Elementary in Pascagoula also won a third place award. More than 300 schools competed in the challenge, which was sponsored by the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association and the state Department of Education's Office of Healthy Schools.