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Actor Jeff Bridges joins Governor for breakfast at Darby Elementary

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Mar 21 2014 06:58:09 PM MDT
Updated On: Mar 21 2014 07:05:45 PM MDT

Darby School is getting national attention for its innovative breakfast program.

DARBY, Mont. -

Darby School is getting attention for its innovative breakfast program.

Montana's first lady, Lisa Bullock, recognized Darby for its progress in feeding kids.

That's why the first lady, Governor Steve Bullock, a national antihunger advocate and an Academy Award winning actor ate breakfast at Darby Elementary Friday.

Jeff Bridges ate the Mountain Man breakfast. Bridges has been working for 30 years to end childhood hunger.

Every day, Darby school cooks deliver breakfast to classrooms.

"My gosh," said Bridges, "what a great example for the rest of the country."

Darby schools found that students aren't skipping meals for a few extra minutes on the playground. The food is right there for them, and administrators and teachers said they're eating better.

The school has noticed a dramatic decrease in absenteeism and coming to class late.

It's specially prepared, home cooking.

"I want the kids to like what I fix," said head cook Bonnie Bingaman.

"The breakfast we had this morning was regular food," said Bullock.

Bridges ate a hearty breakfast with the kids.

"When you're hungry it's hard to get your creative ideas going," he said.

In Darby, every student from kindergarten through high school can eat free.

"Our school has a free and reduced percentage that's high enough that we can take the reimbursement from the government and feed all kids," said Superintendent Loyd Rennaker.

Two years ago, only 30 percent of Darby's school kids ate breakfast at school. That number has now risen to 76 percent.

Nationally, in the next two years, the goal is to get numbers as high as that or higher all over the country.

Bill Shore is chief executive officer of Share Our Strength, No Kid Hungry, a Washington, D.C.-based group.

"Just over the last two years we've added over 3 million kids," said Shore, "so we think we can add another million kids around the country."

"That's good, because kids are starving," said Darby third grader Cullen Duggan, "and that's sad."

Jeff Bridges is more than a movie star and well respected musician. In a blockbuster career that has spanned decades,  people remember the actor for his roles in movies like The Big Lebowski and The Fabulous Baker Boys. The youngsters in Darby liked True Grit and Surf's Up. In Surf's Up he voiced the animated character Big Z -- a surfing penguin.

At breakfast, Bridges drew a picture of a penguin and gave it to the kids. It will be framed and hung in Darby School.