Guest post by Alison Maurice
What better way for principals to welcome their students back for the new year than by offering them a nutritious, balanced breakfast at the beginning of their school day. With the help of your nutrition department, you can pilot a Breakfast After the Bell program in your school and make sure your students are ready to learn.
Busy morning schedules, late bus arrivals, a desire to socialize with friends, and the stigma that school breakfast is only for “poor kids” are all reasons students do not eat breakfast at school. Breakfast After the Bell is an innovative strategy that moves breakfast out of the cafeteria and to the start of the day, removing the many barriers students face with traditional school breakfast. By making this important morning meal a part of the school day and school culture, the program ensures students get the nutrition they need to succeed academically.
With Breakfast After the Bell, breakfast can be served in the classroom or in high-traffic areas through a “grab and go” model. This alternative method increases school breakfast participation—a win-win for schools and students.
Children who eat breakfast show improved cognitive function, attention, and memory. Furthermore, students who eat breakfast at school—closer to class and test-taking time—perform better on standardized tests than those who skip breakfast or eat breakfast at home. School breakfast participation is also associated with improved attendance and behavior, and decreased tardiness. Many schools offer a morning meal or snack on testing days to improve standardized test scores. Breakfast After the Bell extends this to keep students focused on a daily basis and performing better throughout the year.
[callout]“Students seem to enjoy eating breakfast more now than when they had to go through the cafeteria line because they still have time in the morning to socialize [and] get breakfast … I feel that our climate has improved significantly because students are fed—all of them. There is no stigma about who eats breakfast since we all do it together.” – Principal, Caroline County Public Schools, Maryland[/callout]
The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), in partnership with NASSP, surveyed 105 secondary school principals who implemented Breakfast After the Bell and found that 87 percent of the principals were pleased with their breakfast programs and believed other principals should consider launching a similar model. The positive response inspired FRAC and NASSP to release a toolkit that assists principals with launching the program in their schools.
Start the year off fresh with a Breakfast After the Bell program so your students receive the morning nutrition they need to be healthy, alert, and ready to learn. For more information, visit www.frac.org or contact Alison Maurice at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-986-2200, ext. 5056.
Alison Maurice is a child nutrition policy analyst at the Food Research & Action Center.