Today marks the first day of National School Breakfast Week! This year to celebrate, the Child Nutrition Outreach Program at Project Bread is pleased to announce the launch of the Massachusetts After the Bell Toolkit Series. This toolkit series—the first of its kind in Massachusetts—provides schools with the basic resources needed to implement alternative breakfast models, including Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC), Grab & Go Breakfast, and Second Chance Breakfast.
In addition to providing the basics about how the different models operate, these toolkits contain answers to frequently asked questions, healthy menu planning tips for schools operating alternative models, and success stories from schools that have implemented new models. For example, the BIC toolkit spotlights Hoosac Valley Elementary School in Adams, a school that worked with Project Bread to implement Breakfast in the Classroom in 2016. Prior to implementing BIC, only 33% of students were participating in school breakfast at a school where 70% of students are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals. After implementing BIC, participation rose to 91%, tardies at the school reduced from 245 to 175 per month, and the school nurse reported zero hunger-related nurse visits over the first few months of the program.
Last month, Project Bread joined State Representative Dan Cahill, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and partners from across the state to celebrate the launch of these toolkits at the Massachusetts State House. At the event, Project Bread President Erin McAleer spoke to the importance of schools making school breakfast accessible for all students. “School breakfast is critical to ensuring children receive the healthy food they need to grow and thrive,” said McAleer. “Research has shown time and time again that school breakfast not only improves health outcomes, but also academic outcomes. By offering breakfast through an alternative breakfast model, schools can increase access for students, ensuring that more students are starting their days off with a healthy meal.”
Providing nutrition closer to instruction time has been shown to improve academic performance, and children who eat breakfast are more likely to show improved attendance and behavior, as well as decreased tardiness. After the bell models such as Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab & Go Breakfast, and Second Chance Breakfast help break down many of the barriers that prevent students from participating in school breakfast. By making breakfast a part of the school day, this reduces the stigma surrounding school breakfast and allows students who are not able to show up early a chance to participate in school breakfast.
National School Breakfast Week is a chance to celebrate the great strides partners in Massachusetts have made toward increasing school breakfast participation in our state, and also recognize opportunities for growth. According to this year’s Food Research and Action Center’s (FRAC) School Breakfast Scorecard, Massachusetts ranked second nation-wide for our growth in breakfast participation among low-income students, achieving a 7.9% increase in the number of free and reduced-price breakfast participants since the year prior. Despite this growth, Massachusetts is still only reaching 52.7% of free and reduced-price school lunch participants with school breakfast. Massachusetts can do better and we must do better.
The toolkits can be found at www.meals4kids.org/toolkits along with accompanying materials that provide districts with best practices for building a school breakfast coalition, applying for grant opportunities, communicating with key stakeholders, and other resources to help districts operate a successful after the bell breakfast program. Schools and districts are encouraged to contact the CNOP team at Project Bread if they are considering implementing an after the bell breakfast model. Contact the CNOP team by phone at (617)723-5000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.