Breakfast in the Classroom
Create a system for increasing breakfast participation by delivering reimbursable meals to classrooms for student consumption before or during class.
How Does It Work?
According to one study, more than 60% of students do not eat breakfast each day, and nearly 75% of teachers surveyed have students who regularly come to school hungry. This Play is a proven way to help get more students to eat breakfast, which can help them do better in school; and it can be done without taking away from learning. This Play may help you meet the goals of the USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge !
- Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance - United States 2013. 2014. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Hunger in Our Schools. 2013. Share Our Strength.
- Growing school breakfast participation. 2011. School Nutrition Association.
- Instructional time and breakfast in the classroom fact sheet. 2010. Food Research and Action Center.
Huddle up with school nutrition professionals (those who work in your cafeteria) to help with food selections, cost management and preparation; the principal to give your plan a thumbs up; teachers to support the plan; custodians to help plan an efficient clean-up system; and students to help with food selection and delivery to classrooms.
Make Your Case
First, you need to build your case.
It's important to convince teachers, administrators and parents that Breakfast in the Classroom won't disrupt the day.
- Consider making presentations to get teachers on board, or convince several teachers to test pilot Breakfast in the Classroom and then share how it went with other teachers.
- Use this video to show teachers how it is already working all over the country. For more help, use the research about the program's value found below in Tools and Resources.
- There is also information for your school nutrition professionals about the way you can make breakfast free for all students, which has been shown to dramatically increase participation.
- Invite teachers and parents to come to the cafeteria before school to see how long it takes students to get through the line. Invite parents back once you have Breakfast in the Classroom to see how orderly and quick it can be!
Plan your menu.
- Ask for help from your school health advisor or school wellness committee, if you have one.
- Work with your school nutrition professionals to create a menu of delicious, low-cost, nutrient-rich breakfast choices that are easy to package and transport to classrooms. Include low-fat or fat-free dairy foods, whole grains/oats, fruits and vegetables. Consider polling students or conducting taste tests to see what they would like. Sample menus are available in Tools and Resources below.
Consider inviting a local farmer to visit your school and join in student taste tests of the foods you are considering for the menu. The Farm to School Play can help.
Get organized. Make a plan using lunch carts, borrowing media carts from the library and getting donations of insulated bags that can be delivered right to classrooms. Recruit a local grocery store, farm or restaurant that may be willing to provide donations of food items or funding. Put together a breakfast team of students who can help deliver the food.
Keep It Going
Look for ways to keep this program going and build on it — the goal is to make real, long-term changes in students’ habits.
- Try out one of the breakfast-at-school programs.
- Meet with your team regularly to talk about progress. Poll students and teachers to see what a difference you’re making.
- Track participation and set long-term goals.
Spread the Word
Create posters to put up in high-traffic areas, distribute flyers in classrooms and advertise your program during morning announcements. Get the word out on your school's website, blog or in your school's eNewsletter. Consider promotional activities like those found in the Healthy Eating Play A Hero's Breakfast, where you invite local celebrities to visit classrooms during breakfast to reinforce the message that breakfast is fun and important.
Get Others Involved
Everyone can help:
- Create awareness materials like posters and announcements
- Talk to local businesses to get their help with food or other donations
- Provide parents with information about the importance of breakfast
- Encourage parents to support breakfast in the classroom
Involve the community. Schedule a meeting with your school's parent organization and let them know what they can do to help. See our Homefield Advantage tips to help involve parents at school and at home.
Did You Know?
Less than half of students who qualify for school breakfast actually take advantage of it. Moving breakfast to the classroom allows all students to take advantage of a healthy start to the day, without any stigma and without impacting or diminishing learning time.
If your school has 40% or more students eligible for free or reduced breakfast, your whole school qualifies for the Community Eligibility Option for reimbursable breakfast and lunch. This means you can serve free meals to all students in the school, without collecting paper applications. It reduces schools' administrative costs and increases student participation in school meals overall.