4 Ways to Increase School Breakfast Participation

Two small girls eating breakfast and laughing

Starting the day with a healthy breakfast has numerous benefits for students, both in and out of the classroom. The beginning of the school year is a great time to start or expand your school breakfast program and help more students stay full and focused throughout the day.

Students who eat school breakfast are more likely to retain what they learn in class, behave better, and experience better health outcomes.

So, how can you increase participation in your breakfast program?

Expand your school breakfast program

Switching to a Breakfast After the Bell model is one of the most effective ways to increase participation in your program. Studies show that the average participation rate is around 50% for Grab & Go or Second Chance models and 80% for Breakfast in the Classroom.—Compare this to traditional breakfast in the cafeteria, which has only a 20% participation rate on average. If you’re thinking of making the switch, CNOP’s Breakfast After the Bell Quick Guides will give you tips on how to make the transition smoothly.

Learn from your peers

Seeing a successful Breakfast After the Bell program in action or talking to the school staff who are running one can be a great way to get insight into how to make your own program work. CNOP and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education facilitate a Peer to Peer program that brings together school staff at all levels. Interested schools can hold a phone call, a visit, and/or more in-depth action planning to get peer support on creating a successful breakfast program. If you’re interested, fill out this form to get started.

Make sure students and families know about breakfast

As great as your breakfast program may be, it only works if students and families have enough information to participate. Even if they know breakfast is available, they may need to know where it is, what time it’s served, what menu items there are, or how to apply for free or reduced-price meals. Send parents and families information about breakfast early and often, and make sure details are easy for them to find on your website. You may want to use multiple channels to send parents information, like through flyers sent home, automatic calls or texts, and social media. Finally, make sure students have plenty of reminders that breakfast is available. Morning announcements, posters in high-traffic areas, encouragement from teachers in the classroom, and special events or breakfast items are all great ways to encourage more students to eat breakfast. If you’re not sure where to start, CNOP has a wide range of promotional materials and plenty of ideas for breakfast promotion.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Finally, no matter how much experience you have, we know that expanding a breakfast program or increasing participation takes work. CNOP can help with personalized technical assistance, questions about regulations, the financial impact of switching breakfast models, best practices, and more, free of charge. You can submit a question here or email us at cnop@projectbread.org for help!