As soon as Leddy Elementary School Principal Becky Couet learned that her school had the option to serve breakfast, free of charge in the classroom, she jumped at the opportunity. Though this would mean a slight change to the school day, Couet knew her students would really benefit from a meal in the morning. Serving breakfast in the classroom at no charge now gives all students access to breakfast. “It prepares students to learn,” says Couet. She believes that offering breakfast in the classroom helps students feel ready to learn and keeps them from focusing on being hungry or feeling upset about not being able to purchase breakfast. Starting the day on a full stomach provides an even playing field for all of her students.
Only a few weeks into the program, Couet believes everyone involved is already accustomed to and embracing the change. At Parents’ Night, Couet received a round of applause when she announced that breakfast would now be free to all and served in the classroom. Though the custodian and some teachers were at first uncertain about the change, they now can’t believe how smoothly the program is running. The custodian thought he would be dealing with spills throughout the school, but in reality they have found that students are more careful about cleanliness when they are eating in their own space. He is also is very happy with the ease of collecting the trash bags that teachers have placed outside of the classroom after breakfast. Also, teachers are appreciative of the increased time on learning. Last year, some students neither qualified for free breakfast nor had a snack from home; these students’ minds were on their hunger, not on their learning. This year, with breakfast in the classroom available to all students, teachers notice that their students are more attentive, making their instruction more effective and allowing teachers to focus solely on education.
Couet’s students have been excited about breakfast since the start of the program. They seem to love everything they are served. In contrast to their behavior prior to the start of breakfast in the classroom, students are now arriving on time and even early to school to get breakfast and to participate in the contest Couet has organized around breakfast. As part of the contest, teachers keep track of students’ arrival time to school each day. Classrooms in which all students arrive on time or early receive a letter. CNOP has provided Couet incentives to award to the first classroom to spell out “Breakfast Brilliance.”
Couet is really excited about how her breakfast in the classroom program is going. She acknowledges that though there may be push back in the beginning, “once immersed, it becomes part of the routine. At first it may come across as an inconvenience but it becomes a part of the classroom routine and everyone gets on board.” To help ease the transition for other schools, Couet has extended an invitation to anyone, including teachers, principals, school nutrition directors, or custodians, who would like to come and visit the Leddy Elementary School and their breakfast in the classroom program.