By Sarah Murphy, MS 2014-10-28 14:45:29
The Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom initiative continues to lead the way in boosting school breakfast participation. In 2010, SNA’s School Nutrition Foundation joined with a number of other allied organizations to form the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom (PBIC) and channel a shared passion toward improving child health and educational outcomes through the expansion of the School Breakfast Program via the classroom delivery of healthy morning meals. While some schools have been using the breakfast-in-the-classroom (BIC) approach for more than a decade, many anti-hunger, child health and education advocates see BIC as the answer to closing the gap between participation in the National School Lunch Program and in the School Breakfast Program, especially among children eligible for free and reduced-priced meals. Is PBIC’s vision making a difference? Yes, indeed, one child at a time, to the tune of 70,000 students in 14 school districts across the United States. School Nutrition has been keeping tabs on this bold initiative since the very beginning. Read on to catch up on PBIC progress to date, and get a report about the program changes that characterize the current funding cycle. How It Works PBIC is a joint initiative of the School Nutrition Foundation, the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation (NAESP) and National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN). Using funds provided by the Walmart Foundation, the Partners apply a simple strategy: Forge strong partnerships among important community organizations and the school nutrition department to create a sustainable BIC program. The benefits of school breakfast are widely recognized, but a variety of barriers can limit participation in a traditional cafeteria setting. Many school nutrition operations have found success in various alternate service approaches, including universal free BIC, second-chance breakfast schedules and grab ‘n’ go programs located in hallways, school entrances and, in some cases, the school bus itself! The BIC approach itself is simple: Traditional school breakfast is taken out of the cafeteria and moved into the classroom after the start of the school day. Breakfast may be delivered to classrooms, available on a cart in the hallway or picked up in the cafeteria and taken to the classroom. Kids eat the reimbursable breakfast, while the teacher takes attendance or collects homework. By feeding all students for free, the program ensures that hungry children have a meal and that all children enjoy the benefits of breakfast. Unfortunately, the price tag associated with implementing and sustaining a BIC and other alternate service programs often hinder their start-up. To cover up-front costs, the Partners work with high-need school districts to receive funds from the Walmart Foundation for equipment purchases, outreach efforts, program promotions and other related expenses, except for food and meal-prep labor. PBIC arranges for and/or provides technical assistance and support, as well as identifies and recruits allies from the local antihunger, health, nutrition and education communities to help support the effort. Where We’ve Been In the 2010-11 school year, PBIC implemented BIC in five high-need major-city school districts: Dallas (Texas) Independent School District, Little Rock (Ark.) School District, Memphis City (Tenn.) Schools, Orange County (Fla.) Public Schools and Prince George’s County (Md.) Public Schools. The Cycle 1 goal—to serve an additional 10,000 students each morning in those districts—was slightly exceeded, reaching 10,463 students. In 2012-13, PBIC began working in 10 new school districts, setting a Cycle 2 goal to serve an additional 20,000 students school breakfast. Participating districts included Charleston County (S.C.) School District, Denver (Colo.) Public Schools, Des Moines (Iowa) Public Schools, Elgin (Ill.) School District, Guilford County (N.C.) Schools, Jefferson County (Ky.) Public Schools, Kansas City (Kan.) Public Schools, Knox County (Tenn.) School, Polk County (Fla.) Public Schools, Fla. and, most recently, the 10th district was identified as Richmond City (Va.) Schools. Where We’re Going Cycle 3 of the PBIC initiative, which began in this year, focuses on engaging with state stakeholders, giving them the tools and strategies they need to spread the message about BIC to individual school districts. The Partners have identified seven states—Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Virginia—for targeted efforts. The PBIC initiative plans to fund three to five districts in each of the seven states with grant money to help start or expand a universal free BIC program. Eligibility for the grants will be based on school-level— not district-level—demographics, focused in particular on sites with high percentages of free/reduced-price-eligible students. Specifically, priority will be given to schools with: • 80% or greater eligibility overall for free and reduced-priced meals (schools that currently offer free breakfast to all students or have between 70-79% free/reduced eligibility also will be considered); • average breakfast participation at or below 50%; and • strong stakeholder support and buy-in from school leadership and staff. Working with various public and private organizations (including the state agency and SNA state affiliate) PBIC is hosting “breakfast summits” in each of these states to launch the grant opportunities. The events have featured keynote and panel presentations about best practices in BIC service. If you meet the criteria and are located in one of the seven participating states, it may not be too late to receive grant funding through PBIC. Reach out to your state agency and state affiliate for more information and visit www.breakfastintheclassroom.org regularly for updates, resources and best practices that can be applied by any school seeking to enhance its school breakfast program. Sarah Murphy is SNA’s public affairs associate. Photos by Rick Brady.
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