Jill Kidd is the Director of Food Services of Pueblo City Schools in Pueblo, CO. Universal breakfast is served in all 38 of the district’s schools; 24 of those schools have in-classroom universal breakfast. In 2009 the Pueblo City School district was recognized with an award by the Colorado Legacy Foundation and the Colorado Department of Education in the area of Nutrition, in honor of their work to better the health and wellness of students, faculty and staff through the district’s innovative universal breakfast program. To learn more about the Pueblo program click here and here.
Jill was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to tell us more about her program and her school nutrition philosophy. Read on!
How does in-classroom breakfast work in your program?
We serve universal free classroom breakfast in 24 schools. In our elementary schools we deliver breakfast to each classroom just prior to the first bell. Meals are delivered in simple plastic totes and insulated plastic coolers like you would use camping. As students enter the classroom they hang up their coats and backpacks, select their breakfast from the tubs and sit down as a class to eat. Our teachers have found many creative ways to utilize the 10 minute breakfast time. In addition to the regular classroom administrative tasks the students read, review vocabulary and spelling, many teachers use the breakfast time to build community and connectedness and set the tone for the day.
Our middle and high schools deliver classroom breakfast using an inexpensive two tier cart as a mobile serving line. Each cart serves 4-6 classrooms of 30 students. We place the cart in the hallway just outside of the classroom door. Students exit their classroom walk around the cart selecting their breakfast and tell the server their name as they re-enter their classroom to eat. The delivery period is scheduled during the role room period at the end of first period or beginning of second period and is completed in 10 minutes.
Describe some of your challenges and successes.
Our primary challenge with starting a new classroom breakfast program is helping the teachers and administration in the building understand that the 10 minute investment of time will result in healthier, more attentive children who are ready to learn. We have been serving classroom breakfast in Pueblo City Schools for 15 years. Over that time we have developed strong principal and teacher advocates and they have helped us to extend the program to 24 of our 38 schools.
Accountability for meals is a major challenge that we continue to address. We utilize Provision 2 to reduce the paperwork burden and have tried several methods of collecting data and determining the eligibility of meals. The breakfast cart we use in secondary schools is the best process we have found to provide entree choices, offer vs. serve, reduce waste and count meals accurately. In elementary schools we had to increase labor hours to have staff identify and count meals in the classroom. Streamlining the process is a continuous process for us as we expand our program.
What is your participation rate for in-classroom breakfast?
When we change from traditional universal free breakfast to universal free classroom breakfast we see a 300 to 500% increase in participation at that school because we have removed several barriers to participation including the stigma of the free and reduced meal program, students who arrive at school just before the bell or who would rather play and socialize during the traditional before school breakfast period.
We recently added Centennial High School and saw the participation increase from 50 to 950 breakfasts each day. In schools where we serve classroom breakfast participation is usually about 90% of enrollment.
School breakfast is a smart, nutritious, and cost effective start to the school day. 10,000 students eat breakfast during the first 15 minutes of each school day.
We offer a simple healthy breakfast that includes a hot meal 3 times a week, whole grain cereals and muffins, skim and 1% milk, and juice or fresh fruit.
In Pueblo City Schools we believe every child can succeed. We surround our students with supportive services including healthy classroom breakfast. Breakfast is a good investment in our children and their education.
- Students are more alert and perform better in class.
- Studies conducted in Minnesota and Maryland found that students who ate breakfast before starting school had a general increase in math grades and reading scores.
- Increased attention.
- Increased attendance, reduced morning illness, and improved behavior.