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Challenge: Finding Your Village

How ‘Breakfast in the Classroom’ can nourish more than minds

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Students eating breakfast in classroom at Center School District in Kansas City, MO

Parents want their children to feel happy and secure at school – a safe haven meant to stimulate intellectual curiosity and healthy self-expression. Parents also want their children to start the school day ready to learn, but for the 13 million children living in food-insecure households in the U.S., the unfortunate reality is that they often go to school hungry.

Research from the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) shows that students who struggle with food insecurity are more likely to be withdrawn, non-responsive and have decreased motivation in the classroom. But what if it didn’t need to be?

That was the question we set out to answer in 2010, when we brought together five of the top organizations in education, food insecurity and school nutrition to form Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom.

The Partners, including FRAC, School Nutrition Foundation, the NEA Foundation, National Association of Elementary School Principals and Walmart Foundation, set out to address the barriers to students accessing school breakfast through the traditional cafeteria model including the stigma that comes with needing a free or reduced-priced meal f hectic morning commutes, and unpredictable bus schedules.

The Partners designed an innovative solution — serve breakfast in the classroom to all students after the first bell. Breakfast in the Classroom reworks how school breakfast is delivered by offering a nutritious meal at no charge to all students regardless of their household income, and moves it from the cafeteria to the classroom. Students eat during the first 10–15 minutes of class during morning announcements or while the teacher takes attendance or reviews lessons.

The approach is working
Today, more than 100,000 students in more than 76 school districts across the country have benefitted from the Partners’ efforts. Two examples of the Partners’ impact can be seen in Knox County Schools and in Dallas Independent School District. Schools in these districts that have implemented breakfast in the classroom report fewer disciplinary office referrals, lower tardy rates and improved attendance.

The breakfast in the classroom model has provided a blueprint for other organizations and school districts to adopt similar programs, and the benefits are paying off — participation in school breakfast continues to climb.

It takes a village
Raising our future generations isn’t easy or straightforward. As parents or professionals committed to ensuring the welfare of children, it’s difficult to anticipate where the fault lines in childhood development are. Food insecurity among vulnerable youth is a critical tear in the lining of our society – one which we can continue to repair through meaningful partnerships and programs such as Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom.

You can help bring breakfast in the classroom to your school district, too. Here’s how:

  • Contact your child’s school district’s nutrition department to see if there are any resources and programs available to help bring breakfast in the classroom to your child’s school.
  • Tap your school network and contact your local PTA, school principal and educators to help bring awareness on the program.
  • Write a letter to the school board administration or attend a board meeting to explore options for a program and establish support.

Does your school have a breakfast in the classroom program? How has this impacted your children?

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