A webinar presented last week by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) covered strategies for successful School Breakfast Programs. Speakers emphasized the importance of buy-in from all stakeholders, including administrators, principals, teachers, foodservice, cafeteria managers, custodial staff, parents, students and the community. With that support, School Breakfast Programs can flourish.
Some of these success stories were shared during FRAC’s “Breakfast Matters – ‘How to’ Webinar: Piloting and Expanding Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab and Go, and Second Chance Breakfast Programs” which was held on Thursday, March 14th.
According to FRAC’s Eyang Garrison, the most successful school breakfast programs are those that make breakfast part of the school day through Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab and Go, and Second Chance Breakfasts. These models typically take only 10-15 minutes to implement. She said the Keys to Success are:
- Breakfast at No Charge (can operate in the black because of dramatic increase in participation)
- Target Schools (high free- or reduced- price rate; and low school breakfast participation)
- Stakeholder Engagement
- Community Support and Outreach
Mark Welch, General Manager of Operations for the Houston ISD explained how its First Class Breakfast (FCB) program resulted in an increase of serving an average of 30% of students on its 261 campuses to 81% in its pilot study of 36 schools. FCB provided free breakfasts in the classroom. A follow-up study showed an increase in attendance rates, an increase in Math state testing, and a decrease in disciplinary actions. Houston ISD developed 3 customized communication toolkits to address each audience and its primary concerns. For example, the teacher/administration toolkit looked at instructional time and classroom cleanliness; the principal toolkit addressed collection of funds and paperwork; and the parent toolkit addressed uses such as cost (none), time and choices. Involving the stakeholders and the community were keys to the program’s success.
A successful “grab and go” program being implemented in St. Paul Public Schools is “Breakfast to Go” (B2G). Jean Ronnei, SNS, Director of Nutrition and Custodial Services, also echoed the need for stakeholder buy-in. Their superintendent was impressed by the Houston ISD model. They too went to universal free breakfasts but using a “grab and go” process instead of classroom breakfast. After B2G was implemented, school breakfast participation increased from 32% to 62% among the district’s 39,000 students.
Providing the local affiliate NEA perspective was Elizabeth Foster, President of Guilford County Association of Educators in North Carolina. Foster said their Breakfast in the Classroom program was a partnership with the NEA HIN, and groups such as Second Harvest Food Bank and Principals’’ Association, among others. She too said it started with buy-in from the superintendent. Foster couldn’t stress enough the importance of affiliate partnerships and spreading the word. “Create a buzz – you have to use the media,” she urged. “My favorite words are media, media, and media.” It’s important to acknowledge the link of the local affiliates to the community and nurture the partnerships. Its BIC program is now feeding 6,000 more children this year.