A Second Chance Breakfast Keeps Students Focused
“In spite of growing evidence that a healthy breakfast positively affects overall nutrient intake, maintenance of a healthy weight and academic achievement in students, many school nutrition professionals have found it challenging to get high school students to participate in school breakfast programs. Barriers include insufficient time to eat at school due to bus and academic schedules, teenagers’ increased need for sleep leaving inadequate time to eat breakfast at home, and not feeling hungry when waking or on first arrival at school.”
-Kim Kengor, National School Nutrition Manager, Alliance for a Healthier Generation
In order to overcome these barriers and to increase breakfast participation, Wayne County School District launched its universal breakfast program back in 2006 and had roughly a 35 percent participation rate. “The bottom line,” said Food Service Director Karen Gibson, “even with free meals you can’t always assume that the students will flock to it. That didn’t happen.” So key staff members met and developed a more accessible plan with more menu variety, healthier items and a “second chance” option.
“Participating in the Healthy Schools Program created a platform for nutritional criteria of a higher ground,” Gibson shared. “Once we joined we added a fresh fruit to the breakfast program. Apples and bananas are favorites at the high school- healthy and fast!”
They have a kiosk called the “Cardinal Grab n Go Student Express Breakfast,” that is open before school and after the second block of class time. When they started the second chance breakfast they had a 15 minute time frame for service. Despite the fact that participation rates started to rise, the time in the schedule was reduced to 10 minutes.
“That was our biggest challenge,” said Gibson. “To conquer this we added another serving bar with a wireless laptop for check-out. Now we can get 200 students through the second chance lines in 10 minutes and they can take the food back to their classrooms to eat.”
Now the school is proud to say it has nearly a 70 percent participation rate. One food service staff member said, “If they don’t have breakfast they have to wait until lunch and that can be almost 1:00 PM for some students. Knowing there is a second chance is a comfort and can help them stay more focused in the classroom if they don’t have to think about hunger.” To make all of this work, Gibson said, “It takes a workable, passionate team of food service staff that can balance the second chance breakfast and then still meet the lunch deadlines a short time later.”