Research makes a solid case for eating breakfast, whether at home or at school. The study, “Ending Childhood Hunger: A Social Impact Analysis” from Share Our Strength and Deloitte, indicates that students who eat breakfast achieve an average 17.5% higher scores on standardized math tests and attend 1.5 more days of school. Students who attend school regularly are 20% more likely to graduate from high school.
Every school day, more than 90,000 schools/institutions participating in the USDA’s School Breakfast Program provide a nutritious, balanced breakfast to 14.71 million kids – 2.42 billion breakfasts annually. School breakfasts deliver the nutrition students need to concentrate on their studies and fuel them until lunchtime.
While the School Breakfast Program is widely available, student participation lags significantly behind school lunch, making breakfast an untapped revenue source for school foodservice programs. Some districts report breakfast generating the highest profits for their programs. If your School Breakfast Program is serving less than 50% of your student population, you could be missing out on significant revenues.
We know many factors contribute to low participation at breakfast: Students may eat prior to coming to school; they arrive at school after breakfast service has concluded; and some forgo breakfast because they perceive school breakfast to be only for low-income students and they don’t want to be labeled as such.
With academic outcomes supported by well-nourished students, districts and nonprofit organizations are anxious to increase the number of kids eating breakfast. Implementing a successful School Breakfast Program or increasing participation in an existing program is not difficult with a four-step process:
Thirty years ago, breakfast was only available in the cafeteria. Today, schools offer grab-and-go options or breakfast-in-the-classroom in lieu of or in addition to cafeteria-served breakfast. “Breakfast After the Bell,” which provide students breakfast in the classroom or a second-chance grab-and-go after the first period, has shown to increase participation in the School Breakfast Program.
There are pros and cons to each service style/location:
Some schools shy away from BIC service for concerns it will burden classroom teachers and create mess throughout the building. This has been unfounded by many schools. In fact, the National Education Association Foundation has backed BIC with its BIC toolkit and teacher handbook. Check out the Breakfast-in-the-Classroom Resources from the School Nutrition Foundation to learn how best to overcome challenges and successfully implement BIC.
The U.S. federal nutritional guidelines that govern the School Breakfast Program require every participating site to offer four components daily, of which students must take a fruit or vegetable and two other components for that meal to qualify as a reimbursable meal. In addition to fruits and vegetables, students often have choices such as yogurt, a bagel with cream cheese, and French toast sticks, waffles or pancakes with sausage. Varying your menus and always including kid-friendly options keeps students interested and eating.
The NutriStudents K-12 Breakfast Menu Builder expedites the creation of customized monthly menus that comply with School Breakfast Program guidelines. After you answer a few simple questions and choose options from a series of drop-down menus, the tool auto-populates each day's menu on the monthly calendar, ensures the proper number of grains are offered each week and builds out a downloadable Food Production Report for each day. You can build different menus for each building in the district, varying grade levels and multiple offerings. We've also included the ability to copy one day's menu to any other day on the calendar and to copy one month's calendar to a future month to simplify the menu creation process even further.
Displaying foods in a visually appealing manner is important since we eat with our eyes first. How you present your foods will depend on your service style. If students come to the cafeteria for plated meals or grab-and-go foods, your salad bar can double as a breakfast bar. Drop in serving bowls filled with fruits, yogurt, cheese, etc., to attractively present items.
Your grab-and-go School Breakfast Program will get more participation when portable breakfast carts or merchandise racks are set up in heavily trafficked hallways. Some carts include a small refrigerator, allowing you to more easily offer yogurt, cheese and milks. Ask your distributor if manufacturers are currently offering carts at a discount or for free. This article shares tips for choosing the right equipment to execute breakfast-in-the-classroom / breakfast-after-the-bell.
One of the USDA requirements for the School Breakfast Program is that each participating school/district/institution must promote the availability of breakfast. Thankfully, there are many resources readily available from the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom, USDA Team Nutrition and others. You can also use this issue of Cafeteria Connection, our newsletter for parents, and this school breakfast video to promote the benefits of school breakfast.
The first week of March each year is National School Breakfast Week, which is a prime opportunity to shine a spotlight on your School Breakfast Program. The School Nutrition Association has a toolkit full of ideas for making the most of the occasion as well as marketing and PR resources to share your celebration with your parents and the community.
Do you need funding for your School Breakfast Program? Action for Healthy Kids, Fuel Up to Play 60, Food Research and Action Council and Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom offer grants that could benefit your program.
NutriStudents K-12 can also help bolster your School Breakfast Program with our simplified breakfast market basket, the Breakfast Menu Builder and expertise on all facets of school nutrition.