Bringing Breakfast to the Classroom in Livingston Parish Public Schools, Louisiana

Dollars and Cents: Budgeting for BIC

In 2016, Livingston Parish Public Schools Foodservice Director Sommer Purvis sat in the audience at SNA’s Annual National Conference for a Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom presentation called “A Director, a Teacher, and a Principal Walk into a Bar.” She loved the idea of serving her students universal breakfast-in-the-classroom, but Purvis wasn’t sure how to make the finances work back at LPPS. [Check out our “Dollars & Cents” BIC technical assistance video to learn more.]

“With or without the grant I wasn’t sure how I would do it, but when I got home I kept on thinking about it,” said Purvis. “The grant requirements include serving universal breakfast and at the time we weren’t CEP—it wasn’t a perfect fit for our parish at the time.”

When a catastrophic flood hit LPPS—a full 90 percent of the parish flooded—the rate of homelessness soared. “Drastically,” added Purvis. “We were out of school for 21 days.”

As part of disaster relief recovery, USDA granted free status for all students through September, giving Purvis time to apply for Community Eligibility which was granted in October of SY 2016-17, and by January she was piloting “Breakfast on the Go” for feedback and testing. She also applied for a Partners for BIC grant for two of the district’s 42 schools: Walker Elementary and North Corbin Junior High.

Stakeholder Support: Assembling a BIC Team

“Our district is big, and a central office can’t run 42 schools so we have a site-based management with decisions [like BIC] left to the principals,” explained Purvis. “I knew the first stakeholder I needed on board was the principal, and the principals at Walker and North Corbin were both excited. They knew their staff, their school stakeholders, and how to best present breakfast-in-the-classroom to them.”

Purvis presented the BIC concept at end-of-year meetings, explaining to school stakeholders the implementation process, schedule changes, and what each group’s role would be; she also took questions, and presented film of another district’s breakfast-in-the-classroom program. Stakeholders were on board immediately, said Purvis.

“It was more about how to balance work responsibilities with the new roles—what will cafeteria staff do versus custodial staff? What will the teachers’ role be? It started collaboratively, and everyone still helps each other out—if staff is out, others pick up the slack. And at the Junior High, we were looking to change the culture of how students interact.”

New Beginnings: Building Community with BIC

At North Corbin Jr. High, the idea was to break of “cliques” of students who came from different schools by creating a Harry Potter-style system of student “houses.” Kids would report to the gym in the morning and sit with their “house” as a family, and those houses have competitions for points. Breakfast-in-the-classroom fit naturally into that plan.

“The houses have competitions—community service hours, grades—and they get points and rewards,” said Purvis. “Breakfast in the classroom added to that, with everyone leaving as a “family” while they transition to the classroom with their meal in the morning.”

Breakfast-in-the-classroom has given everyone more one-on-one time: students and teachers, teachers and school nutrition staff, school nutrition staff and custodians, school nutrition staff and students. Building new relationships has been a breakfast-in-the-classroom benefit throughout the building.

“That serving line is a barrier, and my staff is building more fulfilling relationships with students and other stakeholders,” said Purvis. “You can more easily see the benefits of your job, and when the students are learning your name and saying ‘Good morning!’ and giving out hugs, that translates into a lot of personal gratification.”

Top Tips: ‘Sommer Says’

We broke down some of Sommer’s top tips and best practices learned since she implemented breakfast-in-the-classroom at LPPS:

  • Present the benefits of breakfast-in-the-classroom to each stakeholder, and show them how the program benefits them as well as the student body;
  • Be ready to make adjustments if problems arise after implementation. For example, Purvis and her staff found it useful to have custodians leave the next week’s supply of trash bags in teacher mailboxes on the prior Friday. No more running out of trash bags!
  • “The buck stops here.” Purvis knows that accountability for breakfast-in-the-classroom starts at the top, so she works hard to respond to stakeholder concerns as they arise and create solutions to improve the process for everyone.
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