By Christina Uticone 2017-02-28 04:35:27
What happens when breakfast breaks out of the confines of the cafeteria? In many school districts, breakfast is the gateway to goin’ mobile. For more than a decade, forward-thinking district directors have been making the case to serve breakfast in the classroom (BIC) as an alternative to kids eating the morning meal in the cafeteria. Although School Breakfast Program (SBP) participation today continues to be less than half that of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the numbers rise each year, especially as more districts and individual schools use BIC and other alternate breakfast service options as methods to prevail over many common barriers. Improved technology (hello, wifi!), ingenious equipment, imaginative menus, solutions-driven persistence and open-minded stakeholder support all combine to make it easier than ever to make the case for providing increased points of access and dining for the morning meal. Simply put: Bringing food to the kids works. In this article, School Nutrition invites you to learn from the experiences of three district directors with breakfast programs that fall along different points of the BIC spectrum. BUILT TO LAST: CREATING A SUSTAINABLE PROGRAM WHEN YOU’VE BEEN DOING BIC FOR WELL OVER A DECADE, you learn a thing or two about what makes this alternative service program successful. Back in 2003, Lima City (Ohio) Schools Food Service and Nutrition Director Carrie Woodruff, SNS, took the logical “next step” after five years of Provision 2 operation: She moved breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the classroom. In 1998, Lima City’s breakfast participation was at 19%; after Provision 2, it jumped to 40%. In 2003, after introducing BIC, it rose to a high of 85%. Today, Woodruff reports, “My high school doesn’t do BIC, but I am one of the few districts in the nation that serves almost as many breakfasts as lunches—83% of our district eats breakfast, and 86% eats lunch!” Having an administration that backed the goals of the program from the get-go was an important key to getting BIC off the ground in the district. “The administration believed in breakfast in the classroom and supported it 100%,” says Woodruff. “Our super-supportive superintendent, Jill Ackerman, was Ohio SNA’s Most Valuable Superintendent in 2015.” But Woodruff also cites the value of continual engagement with all stakeholders—those who are supportive as well as those who are wary—as a key secret of her BIC success. Keeping open lines of communication allow the proponents to jump in and help to convince the skeptics. “There are teachers out there who believe in and want BIC, so you have to find those people and give them the program to pilot in their classrooms,” she explains. “Then the rest of the district will see how well it works.” It wasn’t always an easy road; in fact, at one point litigation with teachers was involved before breakfast ended up being allowed as part of the instructional day. That was then. “Now that breakfast is part of everyone’s routine, I think the teachers would be devastated to see it go away,” asserts Woodruff. “They see the difference it makes.” For BIC newbies, she suggests emphasizing the structure it can provide for both students and staff. “They all start the day with breakfast, getting attendance, finishing homework. I think it’s the structure that our teachers respond to,” says Woodruff. TOP TIPS FOR BIC Pilot the Program: Find a principal and teacher willing to give it a try, and model the program for other classrooms. When others see the results, they’ll be coming to you to request the program. School Visits: Observe how BIC is managed in other schools or districts and take advantage of being onsite to ask stakeholders at these locations to provide feedback. For example, Woodruff hosted representatives from Toledo Public Schools several times before Toledo took the plunge and implemented BIC. Consider OVS: In some schools, opting for offer-versus-serve (OVS) can save time and reduce food waste. Woodruff says it makes accountability easier, and it streamlines the process for both school nutrition staff and students. THE GOOD FIGHT: SAVING YOUR BIC PROGRAM BIC TURNED OUT TO BE AN EFFECTIVE SOLUTION TO SEVERAL PROBLEMS when School Nutrition Director Jeanne Reilly, DTR, SNS, first implemented it in Maine’s Windham Raymond School District in SY 2013-14. There had been a strong stigma attached to school breakfast, and virtually none of her middle-graders were taking advantage of the program. “Our middle school has about 600 students, with a 37-38% free/reduced rate,” notes Reilly. “Prior to offering anything outside of the cafeteria, our breakfast participation was pretty much in the tank; we were serving maybe 60 students a day, about 10% of our student population. I was at the point where I was thinking we either needed to not be doing breakfast at all, or we needed to revitalize the whole program.” Logistics were problematic. The sixth-graders were housed in a separate building, apart from the rest of the middle-school population, as well as from the cafeteria. When students were dropped off in the morning, they went straight to their classrooms, rather than the cafeteria in the building next door. Enter the mobile breakfast cart. “We pitched the idea to the principal,” recounts Reilly. “‘What if we had a cart go door-to-door?’ He was totally on board! And when we met with the sixth-grade teachers, they were totally on board, too. We launched in April of that year, and it was a huge success. We went from feeding 60 kids—and of those, only about 10 were sixth-graders—to feeding half of the sixth-graders in that separate building.” By “going mobile” with breakfast and delivering straight to the classroom, Reilly says the meal was destigmatized for students—who could now eat with all of their peers—and allowed them to eat when they were actually hungry, rather than first thing in the morning. BIC also eased lines in the cafeteria. It wasn’t long before other teachers came knocking on Reilly’s door. “After serving breakfast from April to June, over the summer we had teachers from the main building, with the seventh-and eighth-graders, saying, ‘Wait a minute, we want to do that, too!’ and we just thought that was the best,” reports Reilly. “That was what we wanted—we did the pilot program in hopes of expanding to the whole middle school.” Expand they did. In SY 2014-15, Reilly and her staff rolled out BIC for the entire middle school, adding a cart to each floor of the main building and serving breakfast door-to-door to all students. “It was incredibly successful,” cites Reilly. “From one year to the next, we went from feeding 60 to serving 140-150—it was unbelievable. We had zero complaints from parents; my staff was on board and the school staff was on board. And then that principal retired.” In Summer 2015, Reilly received word from the school’s new principal that the breakfast cart program was going to be eliminated. It was, to say the least, “a big drama,” she reports. “We had invested a lot of money in the carts and POS tablets, and the superintendent was caught between trying to support a new administrator and an ‘old’ administrator—me!” The compromise, says Reilly, was to eliminate the carts for a month, and then look at the numbers. “Of course, participation went back in the tank—under 100 a day,” she recounts. The low numbers—and upset parents—were enough to get the breakfast carts reinstated in the sixth-grade satellite building, but the principal remained disinterested in bringing the program back to the rest of the middle school. Seeking an ally, Reilly found one in the health teacher. “She agreed to partner with us to meet the principal and say, ‘We serve 10,000 fewer breakfasts in this school this year—those are kids who potentially don’t get any breakfast at home, and didn’t eat at school, either, because they didn’t have access.’” The dual front—school nutrition and teachers—and time led to the principal relenting and allowing BIC through breakfast cart delivery to resume in the whole middle school building for SY 2016-17. “We’re now serving about 35 percent of the student population at this school, says Reilly. “My staff is really engaged, and they want to see it up to 50%.” TOP TIPS FOR BIC Tech Matters: Not only will you need to find mobile-friendly equipment—and the funding to purchase it—but once you switch to a POS, the kids get used to it and become wary about old-fashioned systems like checklists and name-taking. Invest in equipment that lasts and say goodbye to that classroom roster. Find Your Sweet Spot: Setting up service kiosks or stations in the hallways didn’t work out well for Reilly and her staff. The crowding felt overwhelming, and there were additional concerns about food safety. Direct delivery worked best to provide for both efficiency and food safety. Have a Snow Day Plan: After a recent two-hour weather delay, Reilly and her staff were surprised to discover how many students still expected to have breakfast at school, even with a delayed start. Be sure to consider how the logistics of your mobile meal service would be affected on days when school starts late and/or bumps up against the time for lunch preparation and/or service. PROBLEM SOLVER: PRESENT BIC AS A GIFT PRESENTATION MATTERS WHETHER YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT APPEALING MENU ITEMS ASSEMBLED ON A LUNCH TRAY, or bargaining with the administration to implement BIC. When Susan Roberson, School Nutrition Services director of Richmond (Va.) Public Schools, decided to move breakfast out of the cafeteria, she crafted her case for her intended audience. “There were disciplinary problems in the morning, and there was no possibility of attracting students who would rather socialize than eat breakfast to come through the traditional line,” recounts Roberson. “We decided to offer breakfast ‘on the move.’ We sold our principals on the concept by focusing on some of the negatives of the morning: discipline issues and tardy students. When kids are having problems after they get into the classroom, it’s often related to the fact that they haven’t eaten breakfast,” she asserts. Although the Community Eligibility Provision made BIC implementation much easier from an administrative perspective, Roberson cites grant funding through the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom (see the box on page 30) as vital in offsetting the costs for essential equipment. Rather than direct delivery to classrooms, Roberson provides breakfast from grab ‘n’ go kiosks. “We scatter them in strategic locations around the school; students come in and they encounter a kiosk before they even get to a classroom,” she explains. As more principals have asked that the alternate breakfast service program be added to their school, the Partners grant funding allows her to say yes to such requests. Roberson admits to having encountered some resistance to change. “But that was minimized when our superintendent said that BIC was a no-brainer, and told the principals they had better come and see me about this!” she recounts. “We now have principals new to our district who immediately say, ‘I want to make sure I have breakfast in the classroom at my school.’” TOP TIPS FOR BIC Logistics Matter: At one site, the cafeteria is pretty far away from the classrooms, requiring Richmond’s school nutrition staff to use elevators to get meals to kiosk locations. At another, the custodian is required to clear trash from multiple floors, without the aid of an elevator. Be aware of the logistical challenges that are unique to each individual site and tailor your plans to those particular needs. Show and Tell: Meet in advance with stakeholders (including principals, teachers and custodians) to answer questions and troubleshoot potential problems that you might not have considered. Then, if possible, take these stakeholders on a planned “field trip” to see BIC in action in a neighboring district. Seeing is believing! Make It Fun: Roberson and her staff are currently rolling out a new breakfast contest in which students receive a ticket whenever they eat breakfast. These tickets are used in weekly drawings for such prizes as movie tickets and gift cards. PARTNERS FOR BREAKFAST IN THE CLASSROOM GOING MOBILE CHECKLIST Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom (PBIC) grant funding is available now to high-need schools and districts in Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah! This grant covers upfront costs often associated with the startup and implementation of breakfast in the classroom and other alternate breakfast service programs. It can help in purchasing equipment, initial outreach efforts to parents, program promotion and other related expenses. The Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom administer a grant from the Walmart Foundation to expand school breakfast participation and awareness. SNA’s philanthropic sister organization, the School Nutrition Foundation, is one of the Partners, joining the Food Research and Action Center, the National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation and the National Education Association Health Information Network. Since 2010, the Partners have helped 15 high-need school districts implement BIC, resulting in more than 37,000 students starting their day with a healthy breakfast. Now in its fourth funding cycle, PBIC offers getting-started basics to help you implement or expand a BIC program: 1 BUDGET: Crunch the numbers in advance, so you’re prepared when administrators ask for data to support your case for BIC. The “Dollar and Cents of Breakfast in the Classroom” is an excellent short video that can help guide you through this process. Find it and other videos at http://breakfastintheclassroom.org/district-spotlight. 2 TECHNOLOGY & POINT-OF-SALE: When you’re preparing your budget, be sure to look at the tech requirements of your plan. Does your current point-of-sale system have wireless capability? Do you need special equipment to access it outside of the cafeteria? Will you need to purchase that equipment? Also be sure to talk to your district’s IT team about having sufficient network bandwidth to go mobile with your breakfast program. Are you using mobile apps and social media channels to share menus and other information directly with parents and students? 3 STAKEHOLDER SUPPORT: Experienced BIC veterans will tell you that finding at least one teacher, principal or school nurse who will help you pilot a model program is an essential strategy. Once others in the school community see it in action—and recognize its success—you are sure to have an opportunity to expand your reach. 4 LEVERAGE NATIONAL SCHOOL BREAKFAST WEEK: Use your National School Breakfast Week success—along with other breakfast milestones, such as testing weeks when breakfast becomes a priority—to build the case for student access to breakfast year-round. Visit www.breakfastintheclassroom.org for more resources to take breakfast beyond the cafeteria. Christina Uticone is a freelance writer based in Houston, Texas, and a contributing editor to School Nutrition. Photos courtesy of No Kid Hungry.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.