K-12 Operator Success Stories
6 Ways to Boost Breakfast Participation
Breakfast helps kids fully prepare for learning each day. By starting with breakfast, they can focus on school work instead of focusing on their empty stomachs. But not every home has the time or resources to provide that critical morning nutrition. Even though it’s widely regarded as the most important meal of the day, breakfast still only gets half the participation in schools that lunch gets.
By spreading awareness with parents and taking a creative approach to building student engagement, you can boost participation in a major way.
One of the best ways to enhance programs is to look to examples from peers. Here are participation-driving thought starters from various K12 operators who have had success bringing students to the breakfast table.
1. Get Your Community Involved.
Fort Worth Independent School District
Forth Worth, Texas
Submitted By: Kirsten Hancock
Kirsten Hancock combined a love of literacy, athletics and breakfast at Fort Worth Independent School District to remarkable affect. Partnering with Children at Risk, a Texas-based child research and advocacy non-profit, Hancock and her team created a menu with new, literary-themed breakfast items.
She also engaged the Texas Christian University (TCU) athletics department for a number of activities, including breakfasts with TCU athletes during NSBW, a TCU athlete-led promotional video on the importance of breakfast and a TCU pep rally prize for schools that increased breakfast participation.
As a result, breakfast participation grew and students’ attitudes toward breakfast improved.
2. Celebrate Global Cultures.
Lexington County School District One
Lexington, South Carolina
Submitted By: Sally NIcholson
At Lexington County School District One, Sally Nicholson and her team have increased student participation by over 40% and increased breakfast in the classroom by over 80%. How? In conjunction with the Immersion Languages Department, Nicholson got students eager to celebrate global cultures throughout NSBW with menu items inspired by international flavors. For some celebrations they encouraged staff to dress up and had students decorate their classrooms. They were able to increase participation in part by promoting the NSBW activities on social media—with school breakfast stats, celebration posts and invitations for parent involvement.
3. Get Staff Involved.
Calvary Elementary School
Marion County, Kentucky
Submitted By: Jennifer Wheeler
Food Service Director
At Calvary Elementary in Kentucky, Jennifer Wheeler engaged faculty and staff to turn breakfast into a competition. The foodservice staff organized a “Class Wars” competition to see who had the highest number of student participation, encouraging students to eat the most important meal of the day. One art teacher organized a poster contest that staff members voted on to drive awareness, while members of the school staff outside of the cafeteria stood in as “Guest Chefs” during each day of the week that helped drove further school community engagement. The foodservice staff also created a traveling breakfast cart themed by the school mascot called “The Dragon Wagon,” for students who hadn’t eaten in the cafeteria. The school secretary ensured that all children and parents were made aware in advance by including information about the week, contests and menus in the weekly school newsletter. And throughout the competition, the importance of eating breakfast daily was always at the forefront.
Their efforts made a difference. School breakfast participation went from 56% to 90% during NSBW.
Jefferson County Public Schools
Submitted By: Andrea Wright
Coordinator, Nutrition Initiatives
Bringing breakfast items straight to the classroom can help ensure students, who arrive closer to the start of class, will still have time for breakfast. It’s not possible for every school, but when it is, it can do wonders. In addition to promoting breakfast through themed posters, selfie frames and decorations near the serving lines, Andrea Wright and her faculty and staff drove participation by placing a Grab-n-Go cart by each classroom’s front door.
With the Grab-n Go cart they increased their breakfast by an average of 65%.
5. Let Them Be The Chefs.
Fairfax County Public Schools
Submitted By: Ellen Eichenbaum
Food Services Nutritionist
At Fairfax County Public Schools, Ellen Eichenbaum and her staff encouraged their students to eat school breakfast by inspiring each student to become their own chef. Students were able to build their own breakfast bowl or waffle with fresh ingredients; fueling creativity and fun. The customizable breakfast bars were a huge hit with students and drove an increase in breakfast participation.
6. Get Social.
MSD of Martinsville
Submitted By: Kurt Bodel
Director of Food Services
The best way to drive awareness is to get social. Students will do their part by telling their parents the exciting things happening in the cafeteria, but it’s helpful to reinforce all of those activities in school social media and parent newsletters. Kurt Bodel, Director of Food Services at MSD of Martinville, drove breakfast awareness by running a story in their local paper informing their entire community about the importance of school breakfast. Videos were created to promote NSBW and fueled the students’ excitement and participation throughout the week. The videos, like the one below, were shared on the school’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. Parents loved seeing pictures and videos of their kids on social media and one Twitter video received over 500 hits! Because of this, Martinsville will be expanding their universal free breakfast programs to all seven of their elementary schools.
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