Secondary school principals across the nation are rallying around a new take on the School Breakfast Program called “Breakfast after the Bell”. In fact, 87% of principals who implemented the program believe that other principals should explore launching a similar program. Echoing the results of the Elementary school report that the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) put out earlier this year, implementing a Breakfast after the Bell program in secondary schools proved to be a superior alternative to the traditional before-school breakfast program.
“Breakfast in the Classroom ensures that all students are able to start their academic day with a nutritionally balanced meal.”
– Middle School Principal, Washington DC Public Schools, DC
Let’s start with the amazing improvements that principals noticed in their students:
- Improved student attentiveness (46%)
- Fewer occurrences of tardiness (32%) and absenteeism (21%)
- Fewer visits to the school nurse (21%)
- Fewer disciplinary referrals (18%)
- Improved reading and math test scores (9%)
Starting the day with breakfast isn’t limited to academic benefits. Low-income students that eat school breakfast have improved overall diet quality compared to those who skip breakfast or eat it elsewhere. In addition, consuming a well-balanced diet early in life lays the foundation for healthy eating habits that can continue into adulthood. Those living in low-income households are especially vulnerable to obesity. Making sure food insecure students have access to breakfast every morning is just one way to fight this paradox.
What is Breakfast after the Bell? Three models include:
- “Grab and go” breakfasts are provided in prepackaged brown bags and are distributed to students throughout the school.
- Second chance breakfast is during an extended morning break where students can get breakfast from the cafeteria.
- Breakfast in the classroom is delivered directly to classrooms.
Why does Breakfast after the Bell work better than before the bell?
- Students are deterred from taking part in school breakfast due to its association with being viewed as a program for “poor kids” – this stigma becomes more pronounced with age.
- Students who arrive before school would rather use the time to socialize with friends.
- Students would rather get extra sleep than wake up early and arrive at school before first period to eat breakfast.
Breakfast after the bell makes each of these factors non-issues; 82% of principals noted an increase in school breakfast participation. Making breakfast available to all students—and serving it after the bell—allows eating breakfast to become part of school culture and no student or subset of student feels signaled out for participating in the School Breakfast Program and getting the nutrition they deserve.
“Students seem to enjoy eating breakfast more now than when they had to go through the cafeteria line because they still have time in the morning to socialize, get breakfast, well before class begins. I feel that our climate has improved significantly because students are fed — all of them. There is no stigma about who eats breakfast since we all do and do it together.”
– High School Principal from Caroline County Public Schools, MD
Learn more about the Breakfast After the Bell program by visiting FRAC.org and reading the full report. Sign up for FRAC’s Meals Matter newsletter to get the latest tips and news on building and expanding successful School Breakfast Programs.
This guest blog post was submitted by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a leading national nonprofit organization working to improve public policies and public-private partnerships to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the United States. FRAC works with hundreds of national, state and local nonprofit organizations, public agencies, corporations and labor organizations to address hunger, food insecurity, and their root cause, poverty. FRAC is also a member of Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom.