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DRACUT — Elementary students will soon have greater access to the so-called most important meal of the day, due to a $13,000 grant that will help expand breakfast programs.

“When the children come off the buses in the morning, they’ll go right by a table and everything will be set up for them,” said Mike Maguire, the district’s director of food services. “They’ll be able to access bagged breakfasts, take it to the classroom and have it during homeroom.”

Maguire has been overseeing a push to increase access to breakfast, particularly among students with greater needs. In October, elementary schools began distributing breakfasts in classrooms. Maguire said it has helped improve student health and performance.

Nurses are reporting fewer students with stomach aches, while teachers have told the principals that classes seem a bit more attentive, Maguire said.

“Right now, we’re feeding about 15 percent of our student population every morning, and we feel those children wouldn’t be eating if this wasn’t afforded to them,” he said.

The New England Dairy Council’s grant will pay for tables and refrigerated units that will store food, and for wireless tablets that will be used for quick checkouts in the school lobbies. Full-price breakfasts will cost $1.75, while reduced prices of 30 cents and free meals are available to students who qualify.

Students will only have to type in their ID numbers to pick up food, Maguire said, and he hopes the convenience of grabbing breakfast en route to homeroom will engage them.

“Before, if a bus was late, some kids wouldn’t want to go to the cafeteria. So we’re bringing it to them,” he said.

A representative from the New England Dairy Council will come to Dracut on Thursday to present the award.

“The nurses and the principals seem very, very pleased by what is taking place,” he said. “The way we’ve rolled it out, I think they’re very pleased with it.”

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