School districts across the country will celebrate what’s widely believed to be the most important meal of the day during National School Breakfast Week on March 4-8.

Henry W. Longfellow Medical/STEM Middle School 28 is just one of several IPS schools joining the annual celebration, which started in the 1980s.

While filling up on sausage biscuits, yogurt, cereal and milk before classes begin Monday, March 4, Longfellow students will mingle with local celebrities — from mascots to dignitaries — and even get a chance to win a few prizes that morning.

But it doesn’t take celebrities to get students throughout the IPS district to grab something for breakfast on a daily basis. Nearly 14,000 students participate in the breakfast program each day — a program that started more than 50 years ago.

“IPS participated in a pilot breakfast program in the late 1960s, before the School Breakfast Program became official in 1975,” said Dena Bond, director of IPS’ Food Service Department.

Like lunch, and even dinner at some schools, breakfast at IPS is free for all students.

Walk into almost any IPS school before the first class begins and you’ll see students — elementary through high school — inside cafeterias loading up on breakfast goodies. Depending on grade level, students have their favorites.

Bond said elementary favorites are the blueberry or maple waffles, and the apple cinnamon Texas toast. High school favorites are French toast sticks and sausage, and the beef sausage on a bun.

There’s one item all ages agree on.

“Generally speaking, high school students seem to prefer the savory items and elementary students seem to prefer the sweeter breakfast items,” said Bond. “But the No. 1 favorite across the district is our sausage pancake on a stick (which is like a corn dog). Elementary and high school students all love it.”

While not required to serve protein for breakfast, Bond said IPS includes it as an option.