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School Breakfast

VOICE OF EXPERIENCE

Drawn from our school breakfast challenge pilots, listen to principals and other school leaders and staff talk about what breakfast means to their students.

Click here to watch another video about why Breakfast in the Classroom is beneficial for Minneapolis Public Schools.

school breakfast

The School Breakfast Program, funded by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), is a great way to nourish kids before they start their first class of the day. But more than half of the kids eligible for the free and reduced price meals are going without.

In Minnesota, the program’s low use remains a challenge across school districts. While the number of eligible children has grown by seven percent since 2010, only 42 percent of breakfasts available to kids were served in 2015. As of the 2014-2015 school year, 330,876 Minnesota children were eligible to receive free or reduced price meals.

In addition to children going hungry, Minnesota is losing more than $44 million in federal revenue reimbursements.

Innovative breakfast meal service models, such as Breakfast in the Classroom and Grab ‘n’ Go, make it easier for students to eat a school breakfast each morning. Initiatives such as the Hunger-Free Minnesota campaign’s School Breakfast Challenge have demonstrated that these best practices can increase School Breakfast Program participation and jumpstart the kids’ school day.

OPPORTUNITY

Hunger Impact Partners will continue to increase enrollment and utilization of the federal School Breakfast Program in schools with high-need students. 

HUNGER IMPACT PARTNERS APPROACH

  • Leverage the momentum created by the Hunger-Free Minnesota campaign’s School Breakfast Challenge by expanding to 200 additional sites. Per-meal cash incentives encourage schools to adopt changes in their service models. Apply for our School Breakfast Challenge grant now
  • Provide ongoing funding for infrastructure grants and testing of new school breakfast models
  • Reach out to current and new stakeholders — such as school administrators, principals and school nutrition directors — to facilitate testing of new models and promotions to students
  • Scale and replicate successful tactics

AN INITIATIVE DRIVEN BY RESEARCH

Research by the University of Minnesota shows that when children routinely eat breakfast at school, they:

  • Perform better academically
  • Have better attendance records and fewer behavioral problems
  • Face lower risk for being overweight or obese

A study by Deloitte and Share Our Strength also demonstrates the difference school breakfast makes in Minnesota. In 2014-2015, an estimated 47 percent of low-income middle and elementary school children who were eating school lunch were also eating school breakfast in Minnesota. If 70% of those eligible students who were eating school lunch also ate school breakfast, 127,730 kids in need would have received school breakfast. That could mean:

  • 62,508 additional days attended per year
  • 41,672 improved math scores per year
  • 10,418 additional graduates

WHAT WORKS: SUCCESSFUL BREAKFAST SERVICE MODELS

Traditional “School Breakfast” or “Breakfast in the Cafeteria” denotes a morning meal served in the cafeteria before the start of the school day. The benefits of this model are that hot food can be served easily and food requires no special transportation or packaging. Schools can also make use of existing space that is already set up to accommodate a large number of students in one central location. This is especially relevant in schools where the cafeteria and gymnasium are shared spaces.

However, in many instances, this traditional model can inhibit participation in the School Breakfast Program. There are many students who need breakfast but do not arrive at school early enough to eat it. Also, many students want to avoid the stigma of being labeled as “poor” that is often associated with eating breakfast in school.

New breakfast meal service models have been created in the last few years that make it easier for children to receive school breakfast each morning. Such models have worked successfully in hundreds of Minnesota schools.

Breakfast In The Classroom

In this model, breakfast is brought to classrooms after school starts – by the students themselves with insulated bags from the cafeteria, or by nutrition staff with service carts in the hallways. Breakfast is easy-to-eat and easy-to-clean items, such as breakfast sandwiches or burritos, low-fat muffins or cereals, plus milk and fruit or juice.

Breakfast in the Classroom typically takes 10–15 minutes to prepare, eat, and clean up. It can happen simultaneously with morning tasks, such as attendance and morning work, or it can easily become part of other instructional activities.

This method is also popular because it makes great use of space. In elementary schools in particular, the multi-purpose room (where meals are commonly served) is often used first in the morning for physical education classes or other purposes. This can make serving school breakfast in the multi-purpose room a challenge for custodial and food service staff when it comes to having the room back in order and ready to go. When breakfast delivery takes place in the hallway or classroom, this problem is mitigated.

Grab n’ Go

In this model, students pick up conveniently packaged breakfasts from mobile service carts in hallways and/or entryways or in the cafeteria when they arrive at school. Students can eat in the cafeteria, the classroom or elsewhere on school grounds.

2nd Chance Breakfast/Brunch

In this model, students eat breakfast during a morning break, usually after first period for secondary students or midway between breakfast and lunch for elementary students. Meals can be individually packaged and served in the same way as they are with Grab n’ Go breakfast. 2nd Chance Breakfast is also called Breakfast After First Period, 2nd Chance Brunch or Mid-Morning Nutrition Break.

By serving a reimbursable meal during a morning break, students who were not hungry in the early morning, or those who ate breakfast very early, now have a second chance to eat a healthy meal. With 2nd Chance Breakfast, more students eat breakfast at school.

SPOTLIGHT PROJECT

When kids eat a healthy breakfast, they are better nourished to make the most of their day. Schools that serve lunches at free and reduced cost are ideally suited to provide breakfast as well. HIP wants to facilitate that morning meal access.

At Andersen United Community School in Minneapolis, it helped improve the way breakfasts were delivered – and Assistant Principal Eric Loichle saw a change in his students right away. “Kids had more energy and participated more in class,” he said. “The food carts located in the hallways made it easier for kids to get their hands on nutritious items as opposed to when breakfast was only served in the cafeteria.” Making breakfast more accessible reinforces the idea that eating breakfast makes a difference. Older students, whose daily routine often skips over breakfast, have to make a greater adjustment. “Our older students traditionally skipped the breakfast lines,” Loichle said. “Having a ‘grab and go’ option makes it easy for them to get the nutrition they need.”

Background

The School Breakfast Program (SBP) is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. It administers and funds the program, while Minnesota Department of Education and local food authorities operate the program in their communities.

SBP was established in 1966, renewed several times and received permanent authorization in 1975. It was originally a two-year pilot project designed to provide financial support to schools serving breakfasts to “nutritionally needy” children, but that term was never clearly defined. The legislation stipulated that schools located in poor areas or areas where children had to travel great distances to get to school were given first consideration for program implementation. Higher payments were made available to schools determined to be in “severe need.”

Challenges in School Breakfast Program

Traditional models of school breakfast denote a morning meal served in the cafeteria before the start of the school day. The benefits of this model are that hot food can be served easily and food requires no special transportation or packaging. Schools can use existing space that is already set up to accommodate many students in one location. This is especially relevant in schools where the cafeteria and gymnasium are shared spaces.

However, this traditional model limits SBP participation. Time is more constrained in the morning. Buses may run late. The cafeteria may not be on the path students take to get to their first class. It’s often difficult for students to get breakfast during the allotted times. Also, many students want to avoid the poverty stigma often associated with eating breakfast in school.

The USDA created additional resources to bolster participation in SBP.

“Energize Your Day with School Breakfast” program introduction PDF)

Solution: Getting Food to the Kids in the Morning

HIP wants to make sure kids from Pre-K to grade 12 eat breakfast. We work with school administrators at all levels to make sure that kids have the energy to get their days off and running; research finds that students are more successful in their classes when they’ve had a nutritious breakfast. But only 42% of available meals are being served, and Minnesota is leaving $44 Million of federal reimbursement unclaimed.

Our strategic focus in this initiative is funding alternative service models at school sites. We are leveraging the momentum created by Hunger-Free Minnesota’s original School Breakfast Challenge to add 200 new sites. Per-meal cash incentives encourage schools to adopt changes in their service models.

Considering the obstacles noted earlier, here are some of the models HIP has helped implement in Minnesota’s schools:

1. Breakfast in the Classroom

Instead of the cafeteria, breakfast is brought to classrooms after school starts – by the students themselves with insulated bags from the cafeteria, or by nutrition staff with service carts in the hallways. Breakfast consists of easy-to-eat and easy-to-clean items, such as breakfast sandwiches or burritos, low-fat muffins or cereals, plus milk and fruit or juice.

Breakfast in the classroom typically takes 10–15 minutes to prepare, eat, and clean up. It can happen simultaneously with morning tasks, such as attendance and morning work, or it can easily become part of other instructional activities.

This method is also popular because it makes great use of space. In elementary schools, the multi-purpose room (where meals are commonly served) is often used first in the morning for physical education classes or other purposes. This can make serving school breakfast in the multi-purpose room a challenge for custodial and food service staff. When breakfast delivery takes place in the hallway or classroom, this problem is mitigated.

2. Grab n’ Go

Students pick up conveniently packaged breakfasts from mobile service carts in hallways and/or entryways or in the cafeteria when they arrive at school. Students can eat in the cafeteria, the classroom or elsewhere on school grounds.

3. 2nd Chance Breakfast

Students eat breakfast during a morning break, usually after first period for secondary students or midway between breakfast and lunch for elementary students. Meals can be individually packaged and served as they are with Grab n’ Go breakfast. 2nd Chance Breakfast is also called Breakfast After First Period, 2nd Chance Brunch or Mid-Morning Nutrition Break.

By serving a meal during a morning break, students who were not hungry in the early morning, or those who ate breakfast very early, now have another shot at eating a healthy meal. With 2nd Chance Breakfast, more students eat breakfast at school.

By the Numbers – 

A study by Deloitte and Share Our Strength demonstrates the difference school breakfast makes in Minnesota. In 2014-2015, an estimated 47 percent of low-income middle and elementary school children who were eating school lunch were also eating school breakfast in Minnesota. If 70% of those eligible students who were eating school lunch also ate school breakfast, 127,730 kids in need would have received school breakfast. That could mean:

  • 62,508 additional days attended per year
  • 41,672 improved math scores per year
  • 10,418 additional graduates

Our investments demonstrate success. At the Andersen United Community school complex in Minneapolis, for instance, we provided money to purchase several food carts that put food where the students are, moving between classes. We also provided money to purchase point-of-sale terminals to allow expedient, accurate accounting for meals taken. Statistics show that the number of breakfasts served since the program began in fiscal year 2013 has increased by 18% while reimbursement monies during the same period grew by 20%.

 

For Additional Information and Background on SBP

School Breakfast Program info on USDA site

  • Federal Program: School Breakfast Program—SBP
  • State Administrator: Minnesota Department of Education
  • HIP Focus: Fund alternative service models, stigma-reducing initiatives, USDA Team Nutrition Program
  • Meal Options: Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab ‘n’ Go packaged breakfasts from mobile carts and Second Chance Breakfasts served during morning break
  • Markets: Pre-K-12 schools
  • Goals: 5.8 million meals and $8 million in revenue for a 28 percent increase

HIP and MDE: A Winning Partnership Feeding Hungry Kids

In 2017, the Minnesota Department of Education was awarded a three-year Team Nutrition Grant of $499,902 from the USDA. Focused on School Breakfast, the grant will be used to offer training, resources and technical assistance to support federal meal programming. It will:

  • Target six middle and/or high schools where 50 school nutrition professionals will receive culinary training;
  • Work with seven school districts to improve their wellness environments, with a focus on “smarter” cafeterias, local wellness policies and community engagement; and
  • Provide nutrition education lessons directed at 450 elementary students at 10 sites.

Strategies will be measured using quantitative and qualitative data to track progress and outcomes, including changes in school meal participation rates, according to HIP’s Child Nutrition Index.

Our partnership with MDE continues to thrive as we persistently search for mutually reinforcing activities to leverage our work to feed more hungry kids.

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