Breakfast is a community event these days at Tonalea Elementary School.

The school is the first in the Scottsdale Unified School District to take advantage of a federal program that allows schools with a large number of students who qualify for free or reduced-price breakfast to serve a morning meal to everyone in the school.

Each morning just as the school bell rings, students and teachers choose three items among juice, milk, muffins, cereal and rolls.

Principal Lesa Friend has urged parents to ensure that children arrive at school with a healthy breakfast in their stomachs, telling them that the food the program provides is actually considered a snack. However, she said it will ensure that more kids eat before school.

"This is a wonderful program," she said. "They are getting far more than they ever did before."

Since the program began March 22, nearly four times as many students have received free breakfast.

More than 400 of the school’s 538 students qualify for free or reduced-price breakfast. However, only about 90 students were getting the free meal previously, a district spokesman said.

Other Scottsdale schools may follow.

"We’re really excited about it," said James Mitchell, president of the parentteacher organization. "I’ve heard positives and negatives. Right now I say, give it a few weeks and we’ll see what happens."

"I think it’s important because there are some kids who come to school hungry," he said. "If you can offer everyone in school a free healthy snack, including teachers — it’s awesome."

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