Two Schools Share Their Breakfast Success Stories
This blog post is written by Phil Chase, Assistant Director of the Office of Health and Nutrition Services at the Michigan Department of Education. This office is responsible for the food and nutrition programs available in Michigan schools.
School breakfast enhances students’ readiness for learning and improves their classroom behaviors. Since 2008, research shows that there is a link between regular access to school breakfast and a reduction in tardiness to class, improved memory and on-task behavior during lessons, fewer visits to school nurses or clinics and even higher scores on tests of mathematics and English language arts.
During this school year, Michigan is partnering with No Kid Hungry to share this research with schools and help them find a way to make school breakfast work for them. We are working with groups including the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM), the United Way of Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM) and Michigan State University Extension (MSU-E), as well as school administrator and teacher associations.
I caught up with two principals in the Port Huron School District who found their own unique ways to successfully deliver breakfast to students.
Holland Woods Middle School: “Fuel Period”
Abe Leaver, principal of the Holland Woods Middle School in Port Huron, and his teachers started a model where students eat breakfast, including milk, during a “Fuel Period.” This time is a homeroom-format morning period that literally fuels the students for the day of learning ahead.
Leaver described three major benefits of the Fuel Period. First, while the students eat breakfast, the teacher orients them to the learning tasks ahead. Students can grab their Chromebooks, find their materials for class, and hear daily announcements. Secondly, the teacher who runs the Fuel Period for the students is the same teacher they see for their seventh period—allowing for that all-important adult interaction and guidance to “book-end” each and every school day. Thirdly, the Fuel Period builds basic habits of ownership and responsibility—crucial for students of this age—since students are accountable for cleaning classrooms and desktops after eating breakfast.
As a result, Holland Woods Middle School teachers say students who eat breakfast in the classroom during the Fuel Period seem more awake, organized, and oriented to daily learning tasks than those who don’t participate.
Literacy Academy at Cleveland: “Grab and Go”
Another principal, Michelle Kristick, found similar benefits in her elementary school in the same district, the Literacy Academy at Cleveland. Students at this school can get a grab-and-go breakfast, with appropriate milk choices, and take it into a supervised classroom to eat. With this model, tardiness is reduced, and younger students get immediate orientation to their day—something elementary teachers prize highly.
This program reinforced the established schedule and “standard operating procedures” in the school, rather than worked against them, as some elementary teachers fear regarding breakfast in the classroom. Kristick also noted that communicating with parents about the school breakfast program made it more successful. Busy parents could count on their children getting early morning nutrition at school, reducing the burden on them.
What does your school breakfast delivery model look like? There is no better time than right now to explore what a consistent and nutritious school breakfast can do for your students. The benefits are real. If you’re running a great program for school breakfast, let us know. And if not, let us help you!