Take Your Breakfast After the Bell Program to the Next Level
Breakfast after the bell programs offer excellent opportunities to help students cultivate leadership qualities and introduce them to new fresh fruits and vegetables. The National Farm to School Network and the Center for Green Schools provide district leadership teams with tools and resources to elevate breakfast after the bell programs with local foods and environmentally friendly procedures.
Farm to School
“I’m a firm believer in variety. There are so many other options they could get. You know, fresh fruits—I would like to see more bananas and more other fruits and vegetables. I’d like to see hard-boiled eggs. We had those one time, and they absolutely loved them. Maybe yogurt—that’s a protein they can have.” —Preschool cafeteria manager, Illinois
Farm-to-school offerings enrich the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools, as well as early childhood education and care sites. More than 42,000 schools across all 50 states and Washington, D.C., report benefits of farm to school, including increased participation in school meal programs, lower school meal program costs and reduced food waste in the cafeteria. There are ample opportunities to integrate farm-to-school activities in breakfast after the bell programs, which can help achieve exemplary menus and increase student willingness to try new foods. Here are three simple ideas for integrating farm to school into your district’s breakfast service.
Incorporate local foods: Food service personnel can generate excitement for breakfast menus by incorporating local foods. In addition to fruits and vegetables, local food products can include proteins, beans, dairy, herbs, grains and more. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you start exploring options to use local items in your breakfast program:
- Define “local.” You get to decide. Local can mean from your county, your state or your region. Consider your area’s growing season and the types of foods grown and produced near you.
- Explore different procurement options. Buying local can mean purchasing directly from a producer, requesting items through your food service provider, or sourcing products from a third-party distributor, farmers market or grocery store food hub.
- Start small. Start by focusing on one local item to include in just one meal, and building up from there. Create a flexible menu that easily allows you to switch in whatever is fresh and in season.
Farm to school in action
Boston Public Schools brings farm to school into breakfast by offering students a healthy muffin that features local apples, zucchini and carrots. Muffins are a versatile product that can easily incorporate many in-season food items (e.g., strawberries in the spring, pumpkin in the fall) and are easily portable for students eating breakfast outside of the cafeteria.
Consider how other local foods, such as yogurt cups, applesauce, whole fruit, berries, potatoes, honey, maple syrup, granola, cream cheese, locally baked bagels, English muffins, tortillas and whole-grain breads, can be incorporated into breakfast service.
Serve student-grown produce: While your school garden may not produce enough food to make up a large portion of the breakfast menu, food service personnel can consider using student-grown produce to increase student engagement and as a tool for nutrition education. Simple ways to integrate school garden produce into breakfast items may include herbs in scrambled eggs, berries with yogurt or tomatoes for fresh salsa alongside a breakfast burrito.
Connect to curriculum: Educators can help healthy habits take root by connecting classroom curriculum to the fresh, local food served for breakfast. While farm to school is a natural fit for science, math and geography lessons, there are no limits to food, nutrition and agriculture-based education. Utilizing farm-to-school principles to teach language, health, visual arts, cultural history and more reinforces healthy eating and fosters educational diversity and creativity both inside and outside the classroom.
Integrating farm-to-school activities in breakfast after the bell programs can be a highly beneficial strategy for developing healthy, appetizing menus and nourishing students for a full day of learning. To learn more about farm to school and to explore resources for implementation, visit http://www.farmtoschool.org.