We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Princess Moss, Secretary-Treasurer of the National Education Association, to discuss the advantages of universal breakfast-in-the-classroom programs for students and teachers. Ms. Moss is an elementary music teacher from Louisa County, Virginia, and a long-time association and student advocate who sees breakfast-in-the-classroom as an important tool to help students achieve and succeed in school.
“The primary focus of breakfast in the classroom is ensuring that our students have a healthy start to their day,” explained Moss by telephone. “As an educator I know that doesn’t always happen, [but] it’s important, as students need that fuel in order to have a successful day. This morning I wanted to get [to work] and I did not eat breakfast before I left home, and as I was driving I was reminded of how unpleasant things can be when I—as an adult!—don’t eat! I was able to identify that, and I can imagine the things our students encounter when they don’t have that healthy start to their day.”
Though some teachers may be hesitant about things like potential spills, loss of instructional time, or disorganization first thing in the morning, Moss says the process is quite simple—and the benefits are outstanding.
“Last year I had the opportunity to visit the BIC program actually taking place in a school in Richmond, VA—it was phenomenal!” exclaimed Moss. “They had the system down perfectly—foodservice employees prepared the food, and delivered it to the classroom; teachers were prepared to let the foodservice personnel in and made sure the kids were seated, then they helped pass out the food, and made sure the students had an orderly way to return the trash once they were done—without an interruption of instruction.” Once the system is in place and running smoothly, BIC time becomes an opportunity for teachable moments and connecting with the students; many teachers use this time for current events, reviewing the day’s agenda, adding an etiquette lesson, or using breakfast as a tie-in with other subjects like math or science.
Another important aspect of breakfast-in-the-classroom is the elimination of the free/reduced stigma that we know can be a barrier for hungry students who need a morning meal. When discussing this sometimes overlooked benefit of a universal breakfast program, Ms. Moss was unable to keep the emotion from her voice when relating her own very personal experience.
“Having been myself on free/reduced lunch, a long time ago when I was in school, and having color-coded tickets and everything, I know what that stigma can do to a kid,” explained Moss. “A really cool thing about the BIC program is that every child in the classroom participates, so no one knows if one or the other doesn’t have what they have at home—I think that’s a really good part of the program, too.”
For Ms. Moss, the ‘BIC Bottom Line’ is doing what’s right for the students, and that means ensuring access to a healthy morning meal. Students who eat breakfast do better in school, and that’s something every teacher with a drawer full of snacks for their hungry students already knows.
“Children who experience hunger are more likely to have health problems, and when they have health problems they are less likely to come to school, and attendance is so important in order to learn,” said Moss. “We also know that hungry children have lower math scores and are more likely to repeat a grade. A positive outcome would be getting those scores up and moving on to the next grade in a timely fashion. Going back to that idea of missing breakfast this morning, that meal makes such a difference in how students focus in the classroom, in how they receive information, and how they interact with their peers. As an educator I can confidently say that not having breakfast does impact the student negatively.”
At a time when teachers are overwhelmed by testing, Moss sees breakfast-in-the-classroom as a win-win for both teachers and students.
“The program is exciting. It helps the students have the advantage of starting their day fueled for the instruction that they are going to receive. BIC helps that teacher take that off of the plate; they know their students got breakfast and they aren’t hungry and they are focused. We know hungry students can’t learn, and BIC gives every student the advantage of starting the day fueled and focused and ready to go.”
There is still time to apply for a Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom grant! If you live in one of our eligible states—Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Princess Moss’s home state of Virginia—visit the Partners for BIC website or NEA Healthy Futures to learn more!