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Breaking Down Barriers to Breakfast

It’s been proven that boosting breakfast participation comes down to expanding access and making the morning meal part of the actual school day. Yet too many schools still serve breakfast in the cafeteria before school starts missing out on an opportunity to reach more students.

“I call this time of day the ‘morning scramble,’” said Crystal FitzSimons, director of School and Out-of-School Programs at the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). “Often kids will miss out on school breakfast because their buses don’t get them to school in time to eat, they are rushing to get to school on time, or they are busy playing with friends on the playground. Making school breakfast part of the actual school day is one of the best strategies for improving participation.”

Thankfully, many different models exist today— grab and go, breakfast in the classroom, after the bell, second-chance breakfast—to support the growth of school breakfast programs. However, FitzSimons says making the decision to implement a new model also requires working with stakeholders and identifying the appropriate resources and support.

“It takes time to change,” said FitzSimons, who leads a team at FRAC that helps schools by offering tools and guidance to support new strategies to increase breakfast participation. One such way is through a new partnership with the General Mills Foundation to provide grants and technical assistance in high-need school districts in and around the hometown communities across the U.S. where General Mills’ employees live and work to strengthen school breakfast programs.

“One of the biggest barriers that schools have in implementing ‘after the bell’ programs is lack of the necessary equipment,” said Jasmine Scott, business unit coordinator for K-12 schools at General Mills Convenience and Foodservice. “We are proud to be working with FRAC to help schools get the resources they need – such as equipment and support – to ensure more kids have access to a nourishing school breakfast.”

Following are a couple of breakfast success stories from schools that have received grants from FRAC and General Mills.

Breakfast in the Classroom

Compton Unified School District in Los Angeles County was an early adopter of breakfast in the classroom, launching the program in all 22 elementary schools in the 2010-11 school year.

Recognizing the many benefits of providing students with a meal to start their day, the school district wanted to expand its program. Through a partnership with General Mills and FRAC, Compton was able to purchase the necessary equipment to extend its breakfast in the classroom program to middle school students in eight locations. Learn more about Compton’s school breakfast success in this video created by the Compton United School District.

Making Breakfast Free and Easy

More than tripling its breakfast participation in just one year, Webb City R-7 School District in Missouri credits a couple of initiatives for making a positive impact on its program.

From the implementation of universal free breakfast to the introduction of new programs that improve access to breakfast and make it more convenient, the district’s breakfast program continues to flourish and actually outsells its lunch program.

The district started by piloting grab-and-go service and breakfast in the classroom at one elementary school and one high school for two weeks at the end of the 2016-17 school year. The results were so impressive that plans were made for full deployment this school year.

With a grant from FRAC and General Mills, the district purchased 16 mobile carts to offer hot and cold breakfast options at all of its 10 school sites. At elementary schools, students gather in the gym to pick up their food from the carts and then take it to classrooms to eat. In the secondary schools, where students can eat wherever they want, carts are strategically placed in high-traffic areas. Junior and senior high school students also get the opportunity for second-chance breakfast.

To read more about Webb City’s success, check out this article in “Food Management” magazine.

“While each school’s path to success at breakfast may vary, the end goal is the same—ensuring all students have the opportunity to get a morning meal so they can start their day nourished and ready to learn.” said Scott.