“A Wellness Wake-up Call,” originally appeared, as one article, in the November 2013 issue of School Nutrition Magazine. Beyond Breakfast blogger Christina Uticone authored the piece, which is presented here in two parts. Read part one here.
Strategies & Solutions
When it comes to implementing any wellness policy, stakeholder engagement is crucial, which begs the question, “How do we secure buy-in from administrators, teachers, school staff, parents and students?”
In order to advocate for wellness policies in your school, you need to possess a toolkit of resources that will help you win support for the programs you wish to implement. The Wellness Impact is an excellent aide, featuring references to a host of organizations and government agencies that provide wellness-related support and strategies for school nutrition professionals. These range from the Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60) initiative presented by NDC in partnership with the National Football League and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the School Nutrition Foundation’s Breakfast-in-the-Classroom Resource Center, and they allow school nutrition professionals to present science-based, data-driven arguments in favor of wellness programs like school breakfast
SNA Past President Dora Rivas, RD, LD, SNS, is executive foodservice director of child and nutrition services for the Dallas Independent School District, and she says that there has never been a better time to begin advocating for BIC service. “The information in [The Wellness Impact] 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. Sharing these resources in support of your breakfast proposal will help add credibility to what you are presenting.”
Of course, anecdotal evidence—in the form of first-person accounts of BIC success—also can help you tell the story and overcome stakeholder resistance. Lilly Bouie is director of child nutrition at Little Rock (Ark.) Public Schools, and a contributor to The Wellness Impact. Finding that more financial resources are available as a breakfast expansion incentive, she identifies “cooperation from educators and gaining administrative support” as the top challenges facing breakfast-in-the-classroom implementation. In response, she likes to position principals as BIC champions. “Principals who have implemented the program are more successful in telling the real story; recruiting principals to tell of their breakfast-in-the-classroom success can help get you the support you need.”
But for other districts, lack of funding—and equipment—remain common obstacles in the early stages of planning and implementing various wellness programs. Fortunately, there are more opportunities than ever to apply for grant money for wellness programs, if you know where to look. For example, FUTP60 offers schools the opportunity to win up to $4,000 per application; many school breakfast—and physical activity—programs have been jump started by FUTP60 funds, which can be used in numerous ways, such as offsetting new equipment purchases.
Logistical concerns also can stall BIC progress, with questions about menus, meal delivery, record-keeping, safe temperatures, leftovers and classroom clean-up strategies sometimes causing decision-making paralysis. Solutions to these obstacles can be found in a wide variety of best-practice reports and resources, including numerous School Nutrition articles on the topic! Other free sources of helpful information follow:
- SNA has teamed up with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to produce A Fresh Start for School Breakfast, a breakfast menu-planning guide available at SchoolNutrition.org. The five-page report includes two-week sample menus for breakfast-in-the-classroom, grab ‘n’ go breakfast, and cafeteria breakfast.
- The BeyondBreakfast.org blog features best practice details from school districts receiving BIC grants through the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom initiative made available by the Walmart Foundation.
- FUTP60 offers a variety of ideas and answers, such as a school breakfast FAQ that provides simple answers to commonly voiced concerns about instructional time, parental responsibility, mess, delivery and more. In its Fuel Up to Play 60 Playbook, FUPT60 has compiled a number of winning strategies (“plays”) to help boost breakfast participation. From BIC to to grab’n’go breakfast to encouraging adults and students to promote healthy breakfast choices, these step-by-step instructional pieces offer operators and advocates a wide range of options to meet the limitations of different serving sites.
- Some communities and organizations have posted breakfast-in-the-classroom success story videos to their websites, and these are wonderful tools to add to your wellness policy “toolbox” to show principals and teachers BIC in action. In particular, check out Dallas ISD, Knox County (Tenn.) Public Schools and the School Superintendents Association: all feature breakfast-in-the-classroom video testimonials on their websites.
- In El Monte City School District, Dr. Robert Lewis relies on his local National Dairy Council advisor to help out with free curricula and marketing materials. “Our local advisor, Candice, is very active. She sits on our wellness team, helps us do classroom lessons, and helps us get posters and other materials. It is a huge help to have these things available to us at no cost.”
The Total Child
When it comes to childhood nutrition and health, there is one thing school wellness advocates like you have on your side now more than ever: momentum. Add to that the growing body of literature that makes the connection between nutrition, physical activity and child wellness, and you have an atmosphere that is far more receptive to new, innovative ideas than ever before. And according to The Wellness Impact report, innovation is precisely the ingredient needed to get a new program off the ground, positing that when barriers are encountered, “creative and dedicated schools can surmount…systemic and practical hurdles in effective, replicable ways.” Presenting science-driven studies with measurable results and identifying breakfast-in-the-classroom (and other wellness initiatives) champions (like principals) allows you to make a “proof is in the pudding” argument that speaks to the whole child approach to student wellness.
In Dallas, Dora Rivas believes that her district’s biggest obstacle to BIC expansion wasn’t so much a lack of resources, but a lack of understanding. “I think our biggest obstacle is sometimes the myth of what people think the impact of breakfast-in-the-classroom is going to be. We find that turns into enthusiasm after implementation.”
It’s easier than ever to make a comprehensive case for various wellness initiatives in your school or district. But there’s one final tool that shouldn’t be overlooked, as it’s the most important one: you. You have always been your own best resource in designing and implementing wellness programs that are right for your district, school, and student body. But now, you have a lot more help.