Part One of our interview with Lori Watson Sanders.
Last week we introduced you to Lori Watson Sanders, Field Coordinator, Floyd County School Nutrition; Johnson Elementary School Manager. Lori is a passionate advocate for breakfast-in-the-classroom, and has shared that passion—and her story—with us here at Beyond Breakfast. Lori has been awarded a USDA “Best Practices” award by the Georgia USDA—we aren’t the only ones who are inspired by her hard work and dedication! Read on for the rest of our interview with Lori.
Beyond Breakfast: Lori, tell us where you went to find resources for breakfast-in-the-classroom, and what proved helpful to you.
I Googled ‘Breakfast in the Classroom’ and I found Beyond Breakfast. I used everything I could find to build our booklet to give to our teachers with information on BIC. I took information from different websites and resources and built my booklet with information on why it would help, why [a teacher] would want to do BIC, and things BIC could potentially help, like tardies and attendance. Our attendance is better here, our tardies are down, and while we can’t prove that it was [due to breakfast] our standardized test scores are up, too. The stomach problems, going to the nurse, they are non-existent! I found all of those things on websites like FRAC, your website [BeyondBreakfast.org], and then I found some things on my own. There was this another website—San Diego Unified School—that had this video clip on how they did breakfast-in-the-classroom, and it showed the rolling coolers and that’s how I got that idea. I sent that video out to all the teachers to give them the idea of how BIC would work, and I showed it to my custodians, also. I also shared on my Facebook so parents could see how it works. Pretty much everything I do here I also share on my Facebook, because I have lots of parents on my Facebook.
Beyond Breakfast: Tell us about how Fuel Up to Play 60 has helped your breakfast-in-the-classroom program.
We applied for [and received] a $3000 grant for breakfast-in-the-classroom. We got some containers,we bought some bags; we bought pans and kitchen supplies we needed for breakfast in the classroom. When the FUTP60 lady came out and visited she took pictures, and then gave out FUTP60 pens and [other items] to pass out in schools. She also sent us some signed footballs from NFL players.
Beyond Breakfast: Can we turn for a minute to the new meal patterns, and ask about how you are approaching those in your school(s)?
We have implemented lunch, breakfast not so much. We’ve been doing whole grains in breakfast for 2.5 years now; we also have been doing the 1% milk for the last two years—we were ahead of the game with that. We always served fruits and vegetables, not as many as we do now, and we have been adding them. We are preparing them differently—here at Johnson, our superintendent wanted to come out and eat our fruit because our principal had told her about it! We take cantaloupe, honeydew, grape, and strawberries; we dice the melon really small, and then give them a full scoop of it—the kids absolutely love this fruit. There is a place called School Meals that Rock on Facebook—they used my picture on there! They also used a picture of my salad with all of the different vegetables.
Beyond Breakfast: It seems like you have a lot of support at the administrative level. Have they witnessed the program in action?
[Superintendent] Dr. Plunkett has come out here to eat breakfast in the classroom with the kids. Georgia State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge was out here and walking around—and Governor Deal, too!—reading books in the classroom. I was talking to Dr. Barge and he said, “I really admire lunchroom managers. They made an impact on my life when I was in elementary school.“ Dr. Barge was late to another elementary school [visit] to stop and share this story with me. He told me that when he was in elementary school the kids got different colored tickets, and his was for “free.” One day someone in the line made fun of him and after that he wouldn’t go back and eat breakfast. When his lunchroom manager figured out that he wasn’t eating, she went to him and asked why; when he told her she said, “You won’t have to worry about that again.” Dr. Barge told me that he doesn’t know how his lunchroom manager took care of the issue, but he was able to go back and eat breakfast without worrying about the ticket anymore. He told that story at the Best Practice award ceremony, too.
Beyond Breakfast: What do you want people to know about breakfast-in-the-classroom?
I think the biggest thing my ladies and I want people to know about breakfast-in-the-classroom is that yes, it’s a little harder to start off with—you have to find your way to make sure things are going well. You have to work out all the kinks. But the important thing is that the kids in these classrooms have a full tummy, with foods that are healthy and nutritious for them, and they are going to be able to learn, and pay attention. When they go home at night they don’t have to worry about whether they will have breakfast the next morning because they will have it in their classroom.
I’m a very tenderhearted person. When my children were young we went through some things. When I became a lunch manager I wanted to make sure every kid saw a smile. We don’t get to see kids as much when they eat in the classroom, so that smile is important. I am dedicated to being that morning smile for these kids.
I really wish more schools would pick up breakfast-in-the-classroom. Our parents love it, our teachers love it. I know more kids are getting food in their bellies to help them get though the day. You never know if these breakfasts and lunches are their only meals.
Lori’s breakfast-in-the-classroom resources are usually available online, however the website is currently getting a facelift! If you are interested in contacting Lori to ask questions or share resources, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out Johnson Elementary online, where you will find information (and a downloadable guide) about breakfast-in-the-classroom.