WALKER -- Normally roaming the sidelines of the Superdome with Gumbo the Dog, Sir Saint looked right at home at North Corbin Junior High.
The big-chinned, helmet-wearing, New Orleans Saints mascot high fived students as he ran by, sat among them in the bleachers, threw them T-shirts and posed for pictures — just his way of congratulating them for eating more breakfast than any other school in the state.
A memorable visit from Sir Saint, one of two lovable mascots for the Saints, highlighted a school pep rally honoring North Corbin Junior High for recording the highest increase in breakfast participation of all schools in Louisiana on Wednesday.
North Corbin Junior High, along with French Settlement High School, earned the state's highest awards in the inaugural “No Kid Hungry” Breakfast Challenge, which was sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Education and Gov. John Bel Edwards.
North Corbin Junior High, one of five regional winners announced during a ceremony attended by First Lady Donna Edwards in March, saw the highest increase of any school in the state, raising its breakfast participation by 61 percent. Approximately 82 percent of NCJH’s 710 students now eat breakfast daily.
North Corbin is one of three schools in the parish that have implemented “Breakfast in the Classroom.” In this program, students grab a ready-made breakfast from kiosks located around campus before taking them to homerooms to eat while the teacher calls roll.
Both NCJH and FSHS scored the highest breakfast participation increases of more than 300 participating schools from October 2017 to October 2018. As reward, each school won a pep rally featuring representatives from the New Orleans Saints football team. Both pep rallies were sponsored by Fuel Up To Play 60 and the Dairy Alliance.
Though French Settlement held its Saints-themed celebration two days after the announcement was made, NCJH students had to wait more than two months for their saintly guest, who stole the show when he finally arrived wearing a No. 1 Saints jersey.
Sir Saint ran between two lines of NCJH cheerleaders while the band played for his grand entrance. He then mingled with students before Principal Carolyn Vosburg, Assistant supervisor of Child Nutrition Programs Sommer Purvis, and Dairy Alliance representative Jen Duhon each congratulated the students on their accomplishments.
A handful of high-end prizes were raffled off, including an autographed Drew Brees jersey, a pair of Saints tickets for next season, and a football covered in the autographs of players, coaches and front office staff from last season’s team, including the late owner Tom Benson, who passed away in March.
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 — everyone’s favorite — frozen pizza. Students also have their choice of juice or milk.
Overall, about 53 percent of 26,000 students in the LPPS system eat a school-provided breakfast daily, or roughly 13,780 students. As a whole, the Livingston Parish Public Schools system saw a 46-percent increase in breakfast participation in the last year, the highest mark in Louisiana.