Healthy Breakfast For All
In 1966, Congress established the National School Breakfast Program to offer a nutritious morning meal to low-income children who otherwise would go without. However, only 47% of low-income children who participate in the National School Lunch Program also participate in breakfast.
Many school breakfasts take place before classes begin, or “before the bell.” For many families, getting students to school before the scheduled start time is difficult because of family and work schedules and transportation issues. Additionally, many school breakfasts aren’t “universal,” (they aren’t served to all the children in the school regardless of income levels) and so eating school breakfast can be a stigmatizing experience. Many children will choose to go hungry instead of being made fun of or being identified as “poor” because they eat school breakfast.
At the same time, studies have shown that students who eat breakfast are more likely to improve academic performance, as well as have fewer sick days and tardy days. Additionally, students who increase breakfast participation also have lower hyperactivity than children who do not increase breakfast participation. School breakfasts offer an opportunity to nourish all students and give them a healthy start to their day before lessons even start.
The Food Family Farming Foundation (F3) encourages schools to implement universal “after the bell” classroom breakfast. We provide universal breakfast resources and tools on The Lunch Box to help schools identify their challenges and create breakfast programs that work for them. We also established our “Healthy Breakfast 4 Kids” (HB4K) program to provide schools across the nation with grant funding to purchase the equipment they needed to serve healthy breakfast in the classroom.
Elaine Moore, School Nutrition Supervisor for Johnson County Schools in Tennessee received a HB4K grant to establish universal breakfast at Roan Creek Elementary. She purchased sheet pans, Cambro carts, deep full size steam table pans, buckets, and sanitizing wipes for the classrooms. The attached photo shows the carts which transport the milk to the classrooms and the trays that bring the food. The disinfecting buckets are used in each classroom.
Elaine explained the impact that the Healthy Breakfast 4 Kids has on her school breakfast program:
“The breakfast grant at Roan Creek Elementary is really going well. We were very appreciative to receive the money to purchase the supplies needed to really ‘hit the floor running’ with the program.
We have seen a very dramatic increase in the breakfast participation from last year to this year. Roan Creek has a very high free & reduced percentage. They have 487 students enrolled and about 400 of these students are eligible for free and reduced price meals. Participation has increased from 214 per day to 435 per day. I believe this program has reduced the peer pressure. All kids are eating and there is no pressure.
I have had parents from other schools ask me why they can’t have the program or when can they have the program at their children’s school. The breakfast grant has been very helpful in giving us a chance to start the universal free breakfast. The staff at Roan Creek Elementary has been very supportive and I have a great group of school nutrition employees at Roan Creek that are go getters and are not afraid of change. Thanks for the opportunity to participate in this grant.”
Dana Stafford, the principal of Roan Creek, told us this:
“Our school was a recipient of the ‘Healthy Breakfast 4 Kids’ grant for the 2012 – 2013 school year. The funds from the grant were used by our school system to implement a universal breakfast program at our school. The program has positively impacted our breakfast program. In years prior, I think the students who qualified for free and reduced breakfast felt stigmatized and wouldn’t eat because the students they deemed more ‘popular’ arrived in the cafeteria in the mornings to wait for their homeroom teachers, not to have breakfast. Now, for example, when grades 4 – 6 report to the cafeteria in the mornings, they are there to wait for their teachers to pick them up. No one is eating breakfast in the cafeteria when anyone else arrives.
Even elementary-aged students don’t want to stand out as being different. They want to fit in. We have approximately 500 hundred students in Pre K – sixth grade and all are served breakfast together in their classrooms, equally. Students are no longer embarrassed to eat breakfast.”
Roan Creek Elementary is one of 117 schools that received an initial HB4K grant. F3 plans to expand our breakfast work to establish universal classroom breakfast as THE mainstream school breakfast program.
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