We’re on a mission to make sure no child ever starts the day hungry—but luckily, we’re not doing it alone. Crystal W., FRAC’s Director of School Time and Out-of-School Time Programs, explains why bringing breakfast into the classroom helps to provide every student with a better morning and how you can help.
Most people know that breakfast is important, but how do breakfast programs help schools?
CRYSTAL: The School Breakfast Program serves as a support for millions of children, enabling them to start their day with a healthy, well-balanced meal. Research indicates breakfast helps students perform better in the classroom because eating breakfast can help students focus in class instead of being distracted by hunger.
Why serve breakfast in a classroom instead of the cafeteria?
CRYSTAL: Traditionally, the School Breakfast Program is served in the cafeteria before the start of the school day, but many students find it difficult to arrive at school in time to eat this important meal. Barriers such as parent work schedules, late buses, or stigma make it tough for students to participate. FRAC’s “School Breakfast: Making it Work in Large School Districts” report found districts serving the largest number of students through the School Breakfast Program had implemented a breakfast in the classroom program. Breakfast in the classroom increases access to breakfast by making it more convenient for students and integrating it into the school culture.
What does it take to start a breakfast in the classroom program?
CRYSTAL: Launching a breakfast in the classroom program does not take much — schools simply have to identify what model works best for their building’s layout and student traffic flow. Selecting central locations to distribute breakfast is critical to attracting students to the School Breakfast Program. Getting buy-in from staff, students, and parents is also important for the success and sustainability of the program.
What are some different examples of such programs?
CRYSTAL: There are a few different models: breakfast in the classroom, second chance breakfast, and “grab and go.” With breakfast in the classroom, meals are delivered directly to the classroom using insulated bags, while “grab and go” enables students to pick up prepackaged breakfasts from centrally-located distribution points. Second chance breakfast is served from the cafeteria during an extended breakfast, typically between first and second periods.
How much do they cost?
CRYSTAL: The great thing about implementing breakfast in the classroom is there are ways to reduce initial startup costs. At minimum, schools require insulated bags to store food at the appropriate temperatures when distributing it outside of the cafeteria. Instead of purchasing higher-cost items such as kiosks, schools can use tables or rollaway carts they already own to distribute breakfasts.
Do teachers like them?
CRYSTAL: Many principals find that breakfast in the classroom enhances the school environment by improving focus and decreasing tardiness and absenteeism among students.1 Teachers play a critical role in developing a school culture that embraces breakfast. A helpful strategy for successful program implementation is to include teachers during the early stages of program planning.
How can parents get involved?
CRYSTAL: Parents can open up discussions with their school nutrition director and principal to build momentum for launching breakfast in the classroom. They can engage their school nutrition director to find out how many students are having school breakfast in your child’s school. They can talk to their principal about the role school breakfast plays in enhancing the learning environment. Learn more about how to extend the reach of the School Breakfast Program by signing up for FRAC’s free monthly Meals Matter calls and e-newsletter.