Easing the “Breakfast in the Classroom Jitters”
When cafeteria manager Judy Eastman found out she would be implementing breakfast-in-the-classroom at Grand Island Public High School she initially felt a little overwhelmed, but was quickly convinced the program was best for her students.
“I’ve been in foodservice for twenty years, and a manager for ten of those,” said Eastman. “When they first suggested breakfast-in-the-classroom it was a little scary, and I wasn’t sure I knew what to do, but I was also sure it was going to be a great thing for the kids—it just makes sense.”
She wasn’t the only stakeholder with reservation, recalls Eastman, but teachers were also quickly won over by the benefits of breakfast-in-the-classroom.
“I think there was some uncertainty and negativity in the beginning,” she recalled. “When our principal and [director] Kris [Spellman] presented breakfast-in-the-classroom it was about the proven connection—when kids are hungry, they can’t pay attention or stay on task, but when kids are full they can think. The administrative team went to the teachers and explained that purpose, why breakfast-in-the-classroom was happening, and now we do get compliments from teachers.”
While teachers are reaping benefits in the classroom, breakfast-in-the-classroom is also great for the school nutrition department. Eastman went from serving 300-350 breakfasts a day to 900—but she’s not done yet.
“Breakfast-in-the-classroom increased our participation tremendously, but I think with some marketing and advertising we can reach even more kids and that’s our goal.”
Feeding the Whole Child
Grand Island High School counselor Corey Farlee (M.S. Ed.) knows from experience—hungry kids can’t learn.
“I taught for ten years, 6th grade language arts,” said Farlee. “I can’t tell you how many times I would have a behavioral situation with a student and I would sit down and talk to the kid and we would eventually get down to the issue—they hadn’t eaten.”
When she heard breakfast-in-the-classroom would be coming to Grand Island High School, Farlee was excited for her students.
“I saw a huge change in my students when they had nutrition,” she said. “Some teachers were worried about mess or milk—I get that—but I was more like, ‘Bring it—now!’ Our teachers saw the benefits right away, I think; the students weren’t irritable and they were more alive and willing to participate. They were just happier.”
Breakfast in the Classroom: Behind the Scenes
Teachers and school nutrition staff received breakfast-in-the-classroom training prior to implementation. Cafeteria manager Judy Eastman familiarized herself with breakfast-in-the-classroom materials, both printed and video, in preparation for the program. A few scheduling tweaks were required, but transitioning to breakfast-in-the-classroom proved to be relatively simple.
“We usually start [breakfast] the day before. A staff member comes in around 8 a.m. to pan up breakfast for the next day in one kitchen, and we have a second kitchen where they kind of mirror what we do. The next morning my cook will come in and start cooking or warming–whatever that breakfast requires.”
GIHS has four points-of-sale, and each staff member is responsible for readying their own cart in the morning; that usually means setting out fruit, crackers if they are being served, panning up food, and then wheeling each cart to their assigned station.
“We did have to add labor hours,” said Eastman. “A couple of our cashiers had to add an hour or so, coming in a bit earlier, and the woman who comes in to help prep for the next day went from four hours to 6.5 hours. We added a few hours—nothing too extreme.”
“Well, we haven’t figured out how to package biscuits and gravy for grab-n-go,” said Eastman, laughing. “The kids love the wrap burrito, and they have adapted really well to breakfast-in-the-classroom overall. I think things are moving really smoothly. The kids know what items to take, and hopefully these stories will help other schools know that breakfast-in-the-classroom is an awesome thing to do and something the students really need.”