41781527_mlAs we near National School Breakfast Week March 7-11, Fieldstone® Bakery offers 7 helpful suggestions for getting students more excited about eating at school:

Offer a “Second-Chance Breakfast” After the First Block of Classes: King George Elementary School’s breakfast program in Virginia dramatically raised the number of breakfasts they serve students by offering a Second Chance Breakfast in addition to the regular breakfast that is served before classes start. It allows the children to pick up their breakfast in the cafeteria and eat in their classrooms while doing class work. The cafeteria went from serving between 10 and 50 students a day at 7:15 a.m. to serving between 90 and 225 students at the second-chance breakfast. Second Chance Breakfast may be referred to by a variety of names, such as Breakfast After First Period, School Brunch or Mid-Morning Nutrition Break.

Add the Grab n’ Go School Breakfast Model: Serving easy-to-eat and easy-to-clean items from mobile service carts in hallways solves multiple issues that could discourage participation. Students can pick up conveniently packaged breakfasts and eat in the cafeteria, the classroom or elsewhere on school grounds. This model is often used in middle and high schools because it is so flexible and can accommodate varying schedules. After it was implemented for the 2014-2015 school year, Grab N Go increased participation by over 120% at Beardstown Junior/High School in Illinois, where over 73% of the school’s student population was eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Sample with Students for Feedback: Survey students using a breakfast survey for their likes and dislikes. Offer taste-tests with small, sample-sized portions during breakfast or lunch. Form a student committee for their input. Announce the results of the taste-test. The National Food Service Management Institute surveyed 11th grade students in two states and found that students wanted to be more involved in providing suggestions and evaluating food products. Participation may increase if your students feel they have input into what is served, as well as familiarity with products they sampled and liked.

Use the School Lunch Menu to Promote Breakfast to Students, Parents and Employees: The selling points need to be shared in promotional materials communicated to students, parents and school employees such as monthly articles on the menus. Parents should be aware that children who eat school breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight, drink more milk and eat more fruit every day, feel full between meals, and may improve their concentration, alertness, comprehension, memory, and learning. Faculty need to be made aware that if their campus increases school breakfast participation, it may receive more reimbursement, giving them a greater ability to offer nutritious foods such as fresh produce that would otherwise have been too expensive to regularly provide.

Host a contest: Work with the art or health teacher to have students create posters with food, nutrition, or health messages. Decorate the cafeteria with the artwork to raise awareness. The first, second and third place artists could each receive a small prize. Raffles and contests can also be used to create excitement in the cafeteria during morning hours.

Offer incentives to students and staff who regularly eat the school breakfast: This could be a breakfast at a reduced price for staff after eating a certain number of meals in the cafeteria. You could offer a small prize to students who eat the school breakfast a pre-determined number of times. Offer a free breakfast item to students who “bring a friend” to breakfast with them for the first time and a free breakfast item to the friend.

Check Out the Competition: It makes sense to give school breakfast items names similar to those foods found at popular chain restaurants as well as similar packaging. Get busy parents thinking about the convenience of the student stopping by the cafeteria once dropped off at school versus making an extra stop at a fast food restaurant and waiting in line at a drive-thru. Have students craving quality food choices that rival what they can eat in their parent’s car on their way to school.

We hope these suggestions are helpful as you research ways to increase participation in your school’s breakfast program.

“A Successful New School Breakfast Program in King George: Schools Kids Can Choose When, Where to Eat”, Backstrom, Sara. The Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg.com. Web. 15 January 2016. http://www.fredericksburg.com/news/local/king_george/a-successful-new-school-breakfast-program-in-king-george/article_eac85df7-04a0-5842-b333-6279e6059a7b.html

“Schools Implement Meal Programs That Keep Kids in Classroom”. Kritsch, Magen. The Daily Journal., Franklin, IN. 17 January 2016. Web. http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/local_story/Schools-implement-meal-program_1453068044

“Increasing Participation by High School Students in School Lunch Program”. A publication for Child Nutrition Professionals citing findings from the Child Nutrition Program Director’s/Supervisor’s Survey Guide, NFSMI-R-28-97, University, MS. National Food Service Management Institute. PDF. http://nfsmi.org/documentlibraryfiles/PDF/20080313014626.pdf

“Why is Breakfast in the Classroom Needed?” Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom. Web. 26 February 2016. http://breakfastintheclassroom.org/about-partners-for-breakfast-in-the-classroom/why-is-breakfast-in-the-classroom-needed/

Food Research and Action Center. Breakfast for Learning: Scientific research on the link between children’s nutrition and academic performance. Available at: http://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/breakfastforlearning1.pdf

“A Guide to Increasing School Breakfast Participation: NEA Health Information Network & Share Our Strength”. PDF. Viewed 26 2016 February. http://mt.nokidhungry.org/files/School%20Staff%20Toolkit.pdf

“Grab N Go Breakfast increases participation by over 120% in Beardstown”. Rise & Shine Illinois. Web. Viewed 26 February 2016. http://riseandshineillinois.org/2015/05/grab-n-go-breakfast-increases-participation-by-120-in-beardstown/

“Expanding School Breakfast Participation”. Food Research & Action Center. Web. Viewed 26 February 2016. http://frac.org/federal-foodnutrition-programs/school-breakfast-program/breakfast-in-the-classroom/

“Marketing Strategies to Increase Breakfast Participation”. Ohio Department of Education. Web. Viewed 1 March 2016. https://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Other-Resources/Food-and-Nutrition/National-School-Lunch-and-Breakfast/School-Breakfast-Program/Marketing-Strategies-to-Increase-Breakfast-Participation.doc.aspx

Written by Steven Stiefel

Copyright: petro / 123RF Stock Photo