When making your case for breakfast-in-the-classroom, experts agree that a data-driven approach is the most effective. Whether you’re trying to convince a reluctant principal, or a room full of skeptical classroom teachers, it pays to do your homework—and show your work!
School nutrition professionals just like you tell us the same thing, time and time again—bringing hard numbers to the table helped them convince stakeholders to give breakfast-in-the-classroom a shot. Back in March, during National School Breakfast Week, we spoke with Principals Margie Johnson and Kourtney Ferrua from McMinnville School District in Oregon about their support for breakfast-in-the-classroom. Both principals cited the work of Eric Jensen (Teaching with Poverty in Mind, Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind) as being influential on the way they thought about the connection between nutrition and learning. When the principals were approached by Nutrition Services Director Cindi Hiatt-Henry about breakfast-in-the-classroom, they were further convinced by the evidence-based resources Hiatt-Henry presented, including FRAC’s school breakfast resources and The Wellness Impact report from GENYouth Foundation and National Dairy Council.
In this ongoing series on breakfast-in-the-classroom resources, we will be taking a closer look at some of the best school breakfast and breakfast-in-the-classroom resources you can find online—for free. Whether you are a school nutrition professional and a regular reader of Beyond Breakfast, or a parent and first-time visitor, we hope you will find information you find helpful as you make your case for breakfast-in-the-classroom in your school or district.
Today we’ll be taking a look at The Wellness Impact: Enhancing Academic Success Through Healthy School Environments. The reason that McMinnville Director Cindi Hiatt-Henry—and directors and managers just like her in schools around the country—rely on The Wellness Impact is simple: the report offers evidence-based strategies to improve school wellness, including the compelling case in favor of school breakfast. In fact, “compelling” might be underselling things a bit, because according to The Wellness Report:
“Serving school breakfast—especially through alternative options such as breakfast
in the classroom and grab ‘n’ go—is possibly the easiest, most cost-effective and most
directly helpful step schools can take to improve school and student wellness.”
In 2010-11, Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom began our work implementing breakfast-in-the-classroom around the country, and among our first group of school districts was Dallas Independent School District (DISD) in Texas. SNA Past President Dora Rivas, RD, LD, SNS is the executive foodservice director of child and nutrition services, where today breakfast-in-the-classroom is served in every school—free of charge. Back in 2013 when The Wellness Impact was first released we asked Rivas her thoughts on what the report contributed to the school breakfast conversation, and she replied:
“The information … validates what those of us who have been doing breakfast in the
classroom have found—that the program works. The Wellness Impact, and resources
like it, will help school nutrition professionals to communicate to other stakeholders about
how important breakfast is to nutrition, and in the role of learning. Share these resources
in support of your breakfast proposal will help add credibility to what you are presenting.”
You’ll certainly want to read The Wellness Impact from start to finish, but pay special note on page twelve, when the facts and figures start to fly on the effectiveness of school breakfast for young learners, including detailed endnotes that will point you to further source material to help you bolster your case for breakfast-in-the-classroom with any audience. Not only will The Wellness Impact help you make your case for the positive impact school breakfast has on student cognition and behavior, it can help you make your “dollars and cents” case as well; BIC often has a dramatic impact on participation numbers at breakfast, which means leaving fewer federal reimbursement dollars on the table. Particularly for schools with high free and reduced rates, breakfast-in-the-classroom is truly a win-win.
The report addresses many other factors affecting child wellness, and many suggestions for how school nutrition professionals and fellow school staff can help create and improve the overall ‘culture of wellness’ for all students and faculty.
Stay tuned for the next blog in this series Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom Resources Roundup: Food Research and Action Center’s Online School Breakfast Resources.
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