Breakfast After the Bell Programs Support Learning
“Every student in my class looks forward to eating breakfast in the classroom. Some students do not have time or food to eat before they get to school. Students were complaining of stomachaches, but now with breakfast in the classroom, there is less complaining.” —Elementary school teacher, California
The American Federation for Teachers (AFT) and the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) are committed to strategic partnerships at the school, district, state and national levels to advance children’s health and well-being. We especially value collaborative approaches to address children’s food security. One way the AFT and FRAC work together is to ensure that all children, especially those struggling with hunger, have access to healthy school meal programs.
Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, federally funded school breakfasts and lunches are more nutritious than ever. The law ushered in requirements that school meals include more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, less sodium, no trans fats, and limits on saturated fat and calories. Nearly all of the nation’s schools are meeting these new, health-based guidelines.
Research shows that hungry students are at a significant disadvantage in the classroom, while students who eat breakfast at school are more attentive, less likely to act out, less prone to becoming overweight or obese, and better academic performers. As documented in FRAC’s “School Breakfast Scorecard” and addressed in the AFT’s resolution “Healthy and Hunger-Free Schools,” many children miss breakfast when it is served before school starts. According to FRAC’s “School Breakfast Scorecard,” for every 100 low-income students who participate in school lunch programs, only 56 participate in school breakfast.
The operation and logistics of school breakfast programs significantly impact their reach. Timing of meal service, hectic morning schedules, late bus arrivals, students’ desire to socialize with friends, the financial burden of co-payments for families who qualify for reduced-price school meals and the social stigma associated with participation can hinder students from eating school breakfast. To address these challenges, schools may consider a variety of strategies, including morning schedule adjustments, increased collaboration with families or breakfast after the bell programs.
The “Breakfast Blueprint” is a guide focused on breakfast after the bell programs—such as breakfast in the classroom, “grab and go” breakfast and second chance breakfast—because they are increasingly popular, are well-researched and have successfully helped schools and districts improve students’ access to nutritious foods. These innovative models shift breakfast service from before the school bell to after, making morning meals available to more students. Combined with providing breakfast at no cost to all students regardless of income, breakfast after the bell eliminates stigma and increases convenience for students.