Alternative Breakfast

By: Alison Howland, Food Access VISTA, Family League of Baltimore

We often say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Starting the day with breakfast keeps students attentive, focused, and ready to learn. The benefits of breakfast are reflected clearly in the data: when kids eat breakfast, they receive more hours of instruction: they attend school more often and with better punctuality, their days are less interrupted by trips to the nurse’s office, they are more relaxed, and they are on their best behavior.

Although breakfast is free to all Baltimore City students, other barriers persist, including tight morning schedules, transportation systems that do not get students to school on time to eat breakfast, not feeling hunger first thing in the morning, and peer pressure to socialize or play rather than going to the cafeteria to eat breakfast.

To address these obstacles, about half of the schools in Baltimore City have implemented alternative breakfast models, with technical support and financial resources provided by No Kid Hungry Maryland. Some schools serve breakfast in the classroom during attendance, reading, or daily check-ins. Others provide “grab and go” kiosks throughout the school building where students can quickly grab a prepackaged breakfast, before school or during first period. A third model is simply integrating breakfast into the school day by serving it after the first class instead of before school starts.

Alternative breakfast models do more than just increase breakfast participation. Breakfast in the classroom in particular provides free breakfast to every student in a way that does not connote need or poverty, but rather encourages a sense of community and belonging. All three of the models support attendance through reducing disciplinary problems and the sometimes resultant school avoidance. They keep students in class by keeping them healthy, reducing sick days and trips to the nurse’s office. They help make school a positive place to be, alleviating burdens on food insecure students’ mental health and providing them with the stability of a daily breakfast at school.

If you are interested in learning more about alternative breakfast or in encouraging a school to transition to an alternative breakfast model, please contact Elise Solorio at Maryland No Kid Hungry, esolorio@strength.org.

 

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Kim Eisenreich September 23, 2015 Blog