By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Philadelphia School District says more students are taking advantage of breakfast in their classrooms. And that’s helping to boost attendance.

Each morning at Francis Scott Key Elementary School in South Philly, designated students grab bags of meals and take them to their classrooms. That’s where the older kids have granola, milk, applesauce and yogurt to start their day.

Fifth-grade teacher Michael Halko says it’s making a difference.

“First of all, they’re here. So our attendance is up. Academic performance? It’s not just that, it’s their attitude. So they’re much more prepared to work,” said Halko.

The key, at Key? Principal Pauline Cheung made breakfast part of the school day, as opposed to last year when it was before classes started.

“Quite frankly, we had only ten percent of our students participating in breakfast because it was before school,” said Cheung.

Now, nearly everyone eats. Cheung says the school, built in 1889, is the oldest continually-used school in the district.

The district’s senior vice president for food services, Wayne Grasela, says the tiny basement cafeteria can’t hold all 500 students in grades K through 6th at once for breakfast.

“A school like this, we just do the best we can. We’ve invested a lot of money in the actual nutritional value of the foods we’re offering. So we’re improving the meals even though it is a makeshift kind of kitchen.”

All Philadelphia schools offer breakfast. Key is among 30 schools the district has targeted to increase the number of kids who take advantage.

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