“Breakfast in the classroom can be done properly when all structures and routines are put in order by the school.”
—Elementary school teaching methods coach, Missouri
Given the critical role school breakfast plays in children’s well-being and overall academic performance, the AFT and FRAC conducted research to uncover best practices and strategies for successfully operating a breakfast after the bell program. Nearly 600 teachers, paraprofessionals, food service staff, school health professionals and custodians from California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas and West Virginia shared their perspectives in surveys, focus groups and structured interviews.
Orange denotes a state engaged for this report.
Several common themes emerged:
- School personnel value the benefits of healthy breakfast for their students, especially the opportunity to promote social relationships and serve vulnerable children. They want students to have the healthiest meals possible, and many would like to increase the use of fresh, local, scratch-cooked foods.
- Top-down implementation and non-inclusive planning frustrate faculty and staff. Further, these approaches can undermine program sustainability. School personnel wish to be included in planning and improvement processes.
- Many educators are eager to share their ideas on how schools can improve students’ access to nutritious foods. For example, they advocate for consistent use of simple packaging to better serve students with disabilities and culturally familiar items to boost student satisfaction among ethnically diverse populations.
- At times, the logistics of breakfast after the bell programs do not fully account for the time required of custodial, instructional and food service staff to complete all their responsibilities. For teachers, there is often a tension between the time needed to facilitate breakfast service and the expectation to teach “bell to bell.” Educators call on administrators to provide more training and to be more explicitly supportive of the new routines and activities that are being integrated into morning schedules to ensure a smooth start to the day.
- For successful implementation, many programs need resources like cleaning supplies and appropriate equipment to store, transport and dispose of foods.
Based on this research, the AFT and FRAC developed the “Breakfast Blueprint.” This series offers strategies on how to plan, execute and improve breakfast after the bell programs. We hope the content spurs constructive dialogue among typical decision makers, including food service directors, union presidents and school superintendents, as well as frontline staff who implement the programs, including teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians and cafeteria workers.