This Tuesday, March 6th, Project Bread hosted a school breakfast event at Daley Middle School in Lowell, MA to highlight the school’s successful Grab & Go Breakfast program and celebrate National School Breakfast Week. National School Breakfast Week was launched in 1989 to raise awareness about National School Breakfast Program and educate parents and students about the impact eating a nutritious breakfast can have on both academic and health outcomes. State Senator Eileen Donoghue and State Representative Rady Mom were in attendance to observe the innovative program and join in the celebration.
Daley Middle School successfully implemented their Grab & Go Breakfast program in 2014 when their traditional breakfast in the cafeteria was only reaching 28% of students. In a Grab & Go model, easy-to-eat breakfast foods are offered at breakfast stations, located at school entrances or other high-traffic areas. “We started the first year with one cart,” said Daley Middle School Principal, Liam Skinner, a huge advocate for the program. “More and more students began to participate, and before you knew it we had three more carts.” Today, four carts line Daley Middle School’s hallways, and students are able to take a bag and select various breakfast items from the breakfast stations before heading to their classrooms to eat The program has resulted in 60% student participation and feeds more than 200 additional students each morning.
Project Bread President Erin McAleer, Senator Eileen Donoghue, and Representative Rady Mom were able to see Daley’s Grab & Go model in action and talk to students about the importance of breakfast. “Breakfast is a great way to start the day,” said State Senator Eileen Donoghue while addressing a classroom of fifth graders. “It gets your brain going. It provides you to with the nutrition you need to focus in class and take on the day.”
Daley Middle School is part of the Lowell School District, where 91% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. Daley was the first school in the district to implement a Grab & Go Breakfast model, and after witnessing its success, other Lowell schools have followed in stride. “The Lowell Public School District has made some incredible changes to the way their schools offer breakfast,” said McAleer. “In just four years, they have implemented after the bell breakfast models in more than 25 schools—increasing access for thousands of students and ensuring more students in Lowell are starting their days with a healthy breakfast.” General Manager of Food Service, Sharon Lagasse shared that the district has plans to have all Lowell Public School serving breakfast after the bell by the end of next year.
For students who do not have the time or household income necessary to eat before arriving at school, school breakfast provides an excellent opportunity to start the day with a healthy morning meal. According to research from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), students who participate in school breakfast show improved attendance, behavior, standardized achievement test scores as well as decreased tardiness. Ms. Abrahams, a teacher for Lowell Public Schools, reports that after the implementation of new breakfast models in her school, more of her students arrive to school on time, fewer students have been going to the nurse’s office for hunger-related issues, and there have been fewer behavioral distractions in her classroom. She no longer needs to purchase snacks for her students that previously required food to dull their hunger pains in order to focus in the classroom. "We used to have students with stomach aches heading to see the nurse," Principal Liam Skinner said. "We don't have that anymore. Students are happy, satisfied and ready to learn."
Project Bread was fortunate to celebrate National School Breakfast Week in such an inspiring district as Lowell and commends its dedication to child nutrition through alternative and successful breakfast models.