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Feeding Hungry Minds by Funding School Breakfast

Wake up, get dressed, go to school. A crucial element from that morning routine is missing: breakfast.

At AASA’s national conference, three superintendents discussed the positive impact of the alternative school breakfast programs in their districts. The superintendents were Roberto Padilla of Newburgh, N.Y., Rodney Watson of Houston, Texas, and Carrie Brock of Williamsburg County, S.C.

Since 2011, AASA has engaged 22 school districts in an Alternative School Breakfast initiative, supported by the Walmart Foundation. This initiative increases the number of all children who eat school breakfast, by taking breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the classrooms and hallways through Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab ‘n’ Go and Second Chance options.

Schools across the country have the opportunity to provide free breakfast in schools to all students, so anyone, regardless of socio-economic status, can get a nutritious meal and go to class ready to learn.

“For me, it’s personal,” said Padilla. “I was a former student of Newburgh. As a child, I went to school hungry and went to sleep without anything to eat. I want all students to have access to nutritious meals. It’s an equity issue — it’s about breaking down barriers.”

The way school breakfast is presented to students and school staff makes a difference in whether the school district buys in to the program.

“I knew the kids were hungry,” Brock said. “Yet, they wanted to socialize rather than eat breakfast.”

Brock noticed that it was easier for children to socialize outside of the cafeteria, when kiosks were placed throughout the school. As a result, participation in the program increased —student athletes especially enjoyed school breakfast kiosks.

In the Spring Independent School District in Houston, food services paired smoothies with healthy breakfast items like granola bars, which in turn increased levels of student participation in this program.

“Before [the alternative school breakfast program], children came to school hungry but it was not ‘cool’ to eat,” stated Watson. “We then began packaging our food differently on carts where we served smoothies—they are so good I have one at least once a week. Children began to partake in school breakfast, when they wouldn’t have done it originally. Students copied each other and breakfast became ‘cool.’”

(Rebecca Shaw is a reporter for Conference Daily Online.)

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