Breakfast in the classroom

Breakfast is a key ingredient in school success. Students who eat breakfast perform better academically, exhibit better classroom behavior and enjoy overall healthier diets. But still,73 percent of teachers report seeing students who regularly arrive to class hungry, without having eaten breakfast.[1]

Why do students skip breakfast?

A student may skip breakfast for a variety of reasons:

  • Many low-income families cannot afford enough food. One in five children in the United States suffers from hunger.[2]
  • Busy families, with long school commutes, may not have time to eat at home.
  • Some children have difficulty eating very early in the morning.
  • Some low-income students feel stigmatized for eating breakfast in the cafeteria.

Other barriers to students eating cafeteria breakfast include delayed bus schedules, the distance from the cafeteria to the classroom, and not having enough time in the morning after preparing for class.

Providing breakfast in the classroom is one of the most effective ways of delivering school breakfast. For example, it increases School Breakfast Program participation by up to 98 percent.[3] By moving school breakfasts from the cafeteria to the classroom, more students get the opportunity to eat in the morning and be ready to learn.

Create an appetite for breakfast in the classroom

Breakfast in the classroom only takes 10-15 minutes, including serving and cleanup time. For the most part, schools can work with the same kitchen operations, waste management system and classroom instructional time as before. In fact, schools that serve breakfast in the classroom are better able to manage food service costs due to increased federal reimbursements from improved participation.[4]

Serving a breakfast for champions!

Students who attend schools that serve breakfast in the classroom show better academic, social, behavioral and health outcomes, such as:

Academic/Behavioral

  • Improved cognitive skills, including memory, retention, concentration and alertness.
  • Stronger coping skills during frustrating and demanding tasks.
  • Lower rates of absenteeism and tardiness (and they are less likely to repeat grade levels).
  • Fewer disciplinary issues.[5]
  • Higher test scores.[6]

Health/Nutrition

  • A better diet, with more fruits and vegetables (and a higher intake of vitamins, minerals and fiber).
  • Less sodium, cholesterol and fat consumption.
  • A lower body mass index and risk of obesity.
  • Fewer unhealthy behaviors, such as physical inactivity, eating disorders and substance use.
  • A lower risk of anxiety, depression and mental health issues.[7]
  • Fewer visits to the school nurse.

Also, improving school breakfast participation can bring:

  • Additional funding to the school district.
  • Better financial stability to the food service program.[8]

Set the classroom table for breakfast

You can successfully transition into breakfast in the classroom by coordinating all members of the school community. Involve your school’s food service professionals, teachers, administrative staff and even students! Your food service staff can still prepare breakfast as they usually do. Only, instead of the meals being served in a cafeteria line, they are packed into bags and delivered to the classroom.

Get inspiration for your school kitchen from sample menus! You can also use food cost and preparation tools to help your school’s classroom breakfast program run smoothly.

In the classroom, teachers use a roster to keep track of students who eat school breakfast. Teachers also have the flexibility to use breakfast time for either completing administrative tasks or teaching.

Use your classroom’s breakfast time to:

  • Incorporate nutrition education.
  • Conduct morning classroom meetings.
  • Host read-alouds or book club discussions.
  • Share and debate current affairs.
  • Give demonstrations or instructions for the day’s lessons.
  • Review homework and tests.
  • Have students solve educational quiz games, puzzles and riddles.

Other resources and tips

Apply for a grant to receive support as your school transitions to serving breakfast in the classroom.

Use a planning toolkit to manage your classroom breakfast program. The guide has planning tools for food service professionals, teachers and other school staff as well.

Principals and school administrators can use marketing strategies that have helped other schools promote breakfast in the classroom.

For free food service training and support, visit the National Food Service Management Institute online.


[1] No Kid Hungry. "Hunger In Our Schools." No Kid Hungry Teacher's Report. Accessed January 23, 2015. http://www.nokidhungry.org/pdfs/NKH_TeachersReport_2013.pdf.

[2]"FRAC Facts: School Breakfast Program." Food Research and Action Center. Accessed January 21, 2015. http://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/school_breakfast_program_fact_sheet.pdf

[3]"FRAC Breakfast for Health." Food Research and Action Center. Accessed January 21, 2015. http://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/breakfastforhealth.pdf

[4]"FRAC How It Works." Food Research and Action Center. Accessed January 21, 2015. http://frac.org/pdf/how_it_works_bic_fact_sheet.pdf#page=2

[5] FRAC Breakfast for Learning." Food Research and Action Center. Accessed January 21, 2015. http://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/breakfastforlearning.pdf

[6]"School Breakfast Program." Food Research Action Center School Breakfast Program. Accessed January 21, 2015. http://frac.org/federal-foodnutrition-programs/school-breakfast-program/

[7] [7]"FRAC Breakfast for Health." Food Research and Action Center. Accessed January 21, 2015. http://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/breakfastforhealth.pdf

[8]"Nutrition Education Resources." Expanding Breakfast: Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed January 21, 2015. https://school.fueluptoplay60.com/tools/nutrition-education/view.php?id=23965734

 

The Breakfast Blueprint

The AFT and the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) previewed their forthcoming joint project, the “Breakfast Blueprint,” that will offer strategies on how to plan, execute and evaluate breakfast after the bell programs such as grab-and-go, second chance and breakfast in the classroom.

Watch: The Breakfast Blueprint: Planning, Implementation and Evaluation Best Practices

Healthy & hunger-free schools

The AFT passed a resolution at its 2014 convention supporting innovative strategies to implement universal school breakfast in schools. Read the resolution here.