Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom Chat, #NSBW16 Edition: Cleta Long, School Nutrition Director, Bibb County School District, Georgia

Between SNA’s 2016 Legislative Action Conference and the FRAC/Feeding America National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference we stayed very busy during our too-brief visit to Washington, D.C. In between LAC sessions at the Marquis Marriott we sat down with Cleta Long (EdD, SNS) to discuss the upcoming roll-out of breakfast-in-the-classroom at three of her Bibb County School District high schools. Fresh off an administrative review, Cleta and her staff are busy planning their BIC kick-off event, which will take place after spring break and include the unveiling of their new Five and Go breakfast promotion.

“High school kids are notorious for coming in at the last minute—five minutes before the bell,” explained Cleta. “We got this grant for our three high schools with the objective of raising our participation. We envision putting these kiosks in locations where kids are running in from the car or the bus, and in that last five minutes they can come through, grab a smoothie. On their way to class they can [finish] the smoothie and drop [the cup] in the garbage when they get there, ready to go and better able to learn.”

High school students can be a difficult audience to capture at breakfast, but in Bibb County the secondary schools are already clamoring for smoothies; Long is running a successful smoothie program in one high school now, but says serving more students requires additional capacity—which translates into additional equipment. Blenders acquired through the Dairy Council helped Cleta and her staff start up their first smoothie program, and now a Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom grant will allow them to purchase the equipment they need to both make and distribute smoothies on a larger scale.

“It’s about capacity, and making sure we do this efficiently and consistently,” said Cleta. “We have to look at a different scale. By doing the mixture at our central kitchen and shipping it out on refrigerated trucks, it’s one less step.”

When Five and Go launches smoothies will be prepared in Bibb County’s central kitchen using a new machine from Stoelting—a slushie machine, as a matter of fact.

“It freezes [the mixture] completely around instead of just at the bottom, and you get four gallons [out of it],” said Cleta. “We will make a seventy gallon batch—right now we figure we need to get 22-23 gallons out to each of these three schools each day. We will send it out chilled, and all they have to do is open the bag, pour the smoothie into the container, and it’s done.

“I figured out a gallon will give us eight servings, so even a blender with a two-gallon capacity is still only doing sixteen smoothies, which is a long way from 200. You have to look at shelf life, too—we know that when things have a short shelf life we have to make them up on Monday and get them shipped out for use by Friday, because leaving them over the weekend is too long.”

Other equipment and tech upgrades will come in handy as Long and her staff roll out Five and Go, including kiosks, tablets, Wi-Fi connectivity, and even an app that lets students check the daily menus and smoothie specials.

“It’s a matter of convenience for high school kids,” said Cleta. “When they get up in the morning—and even in my experience with my own kids—most of them aren’t hungry. They are in a hurry to get ready, just trying to get to school; our high school starts at 7:30 so you can imagine—they are barely getting up and getting their clothes on! When they get to school, that’s when they are awake enough to say, ‘Gee, I really wish I had something to eat’.”

With just a few weeks left before Bibb County’s big Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom roll-out—complete with an exciting kick-off celebration event—Long and her staff are looking forward to increasing access to breakfast for their students, many of whom rely on the nutritious meals they receive at school.

“In the morning these kids don’t even have time to drive through wherever, and the other thing—which is a factor—is that we are CEP. Breakfast is served at no cost to these students. Breakfast can fill a lot of gaps, for high school kids particularly, and the ultimate goal is not only to get breakfast in them but to make them better able to learn.”

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