Breakfast Blueprint

Strategies for Maintaining Clean School Spaces


“Students prep tables, fix their own plates and clean up after themselves.” —Preschool teacher, Missouri

Maintaining clean spaces both inside and outside the classroom is critical when operating a breakfast after the bell program. Though breakfast service may shift to new spaces, the cleanliness standards held for the cafeteria should be applied to all spaces where breakfast is served, especially in individual classrooms. Adequate cleaning supplies provided by the school or district, timely trash removal and daily cleaning procedures are all essential. To keep school spaces tidy while operating a breakfast after the bell program, schools can use these tips:

Stock cleaning supplies: Schools should periodically provide cleaning supplies, such as absorbent paper towels, hand and desk wipes, and mini brooms to each school space participating in breakfast service. Consider using interoffice phones or other technology so educators can signal the need for custodial assistance in cases where larger spills cannot be addressed with cleaning supplies provided to classrooms.

Schools can direct custodial service or food service staff to drop off trash bags. In schools with limited custodial capacity, food service staff may distribute trash bags along with breakfast.

Separate liquids: A separate bucket with a lid should be available for students to dispose of any leftover juice and/or milk. If a separate bucket is unavailable, use double-bag trash cans that will contain liquid waste. Strainers that separate cereal from milk can simplify organic waste management, such as ensuring that cereal does not go down the drain in classrooms equipped with sinks. Menu changes may also help minimize challenging forms of waste.

Isolate trash: Once breakfast service is finished, place trash outside of the door for pickup. Alternatively, locate large central waste baskets in hallways and task a student with placing the classroom trash into this larger container. This method is particularly helpful in schools with limited custodial capacity. Trash should be removed from classrooms or hallways promptly. Using carts to transport trash helps to ease waste removal.

Trash cans should have lids to prevent messes should a trash can fall. Lids also are helpful in special education classrooms, where AFT members note that students may attempt to retrieve discarded food items from the trash.

Assign jobs: Students can play an integral role in breakfast cleanup routines, and engaging in these tasks can build leadership skills. Identify specific roles for students to streamline the cleaning of desks and floor spaces. Students can be responsible for their own spaces or charged with broader responsibilities. Common assignments include collecting remaining nonperishable food, wiping desks, sweeping the floor and trash removal. Some AFT members with students as young as 5 years old report that with practice and a structured routine, students contribute to classroom cleanup.

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