The cooks at Community Action Partnership’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs have their work cut out for them.

Between the morning and afternoon hours, they serve 216 meals at the building on Ninth Street, although many of the 72 kids are return customers from breakfast, lunch and the afternoon snack.

And sometimes the kids play a part in preparing their own meals, which is one of the classroom experiences offered at Head Start.

“They let us know what they want, and we get it from the store and send it to the classrooms,” Angie Crull said.

Crull is the full-time cook and has been working at Head Start for 22 years, Since the program on Ninth Street is the largest Head Start operation in St. Joseph, Renee Barber helps prepare food, as well.

On the day News-Press NOW went into the kitchen, hamburgers, cantaloupe and tater tots were on the lunch menu, and many classrooms requested second helpings.

Both Crull and Barber agreed that the 2-year-olds are their favorite group to serve.

“They’re just so much fun to watch,” Barber said. “They’re just learning new things and everything is exciting.”

Hunger can be a barrier to reaching success in life, and at a young age research shows that full stomachs can improve math scores.

Even eating breakfast, the most important meal of the day, can give rise to better attendance and less chance of behavioral and psychological difficulties.

The two cooks said some of the favorite meals are spaghetti, biscuits, chicken and noodles.

“They like comfort foods,” Crull said.

Ryan Hennessy can be reached

at ryan.hennessy@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on twitter: @NPNowHennessy.