This is Part One of a two-part series on breakfast-in-the-classroom at McMinnville School District in Oregon. Check back tomorrow to hear from principals at two McMinnville Schools—Margie Johnson from Grandhaven Elementary and Kourtney Ferrua of Wascher Elementary—on why they believe breakfast-in-the-classroom is the perfect fit for their schools.
Regular readers of Beyond Breakfast might remember Jeri Paull, the Nutrition Services Manager at McMinnville School District and the recipient of a 2014 School Nutrition Foundation education scholarship. We reached out to Jeri, looking for cool school breakfast stories to share with you during National School Breakfast Week, and Jeri put us in touch with her director, Cindi Hiatt-Henry. Hiatt-Henry has implemented BIC in two schools over the last two years, and is a huge proponent of breakfast-in-the-classroom.
In turn, Cindi introduced us to Crista Hawkins from the Oregon Dairy Council, with whom she has worked closely to champion BIC around the state. (Did we mention that Cindi Hiatt-Henry is president of the Oregon SNA, too?) We wanted to ask Cindi and Crista what their breakfast-in-the-classroom experiences were like: How did they encourage collaboration among stakeholders? What barriers presented themselves, and how were the challenges resolved? What lessons did they learn along the way, and what does breakfast-in-the-classroom done offer students?
Breakfast is: Underutilized
Cindi Hiatt-Henry made her support for BIC clear right from the start. “I’ve been frustrated, generally speaking, because I feel like breakfast has been underutilized,” said Cindi. “When you look at the participation at lunch and then compare it to breakfast, it’s a sad statement—especially when you have a large number of free and reduced students, and you know that need is out there.”
When Hiatt-Henry started her first BIC program two years ago she describes what can only be called “a remarkable turnaround” in her participation. She launched her pilot program at Grandhaven Elementary School, where, “We went from about 90 meals a day, to over 400—and that’s basically overnight,” emphasized Cindi. “It was obviously a resounding success.”
This school year, after McMinnville implemented the Community Eligibility Provision—making breakfast and lunch free for all students—Hiatt-Henry saw another uptick in the number of breakfasts served, but not to the magnitude she saw when she brought breakfast into the classroom.
Breakfast is: A Hunger Solution
So she decided to do it again, this time at Wascher Elementary School. The results? “We went from about 80 breakfasts to well over 300 per day,” reported Cindi. “In both schools the counts maintained, and our principals are happy, the staff is happy, and we’re nourishing children—meeting a real need.”
Presenting school breakfast in a data-driven way to principals and administrators can help improve success, according to Cindi, and Crista Hawkins of Oregon Dairy Council. When we spoke with Hawkins by phone, she reiterated the importance of bringing hard numbers to stakeholders early on in the process. “Having credible, science-based, evidence-based information helps people understand the benefits [of BIC],” said Crista, citing FRAC’s school breakfast information and The Wellness Impact report from GENYouth Foundation and National Dairy Council as examples of places to start.
Breakfast is: Flexible
Don’t feel like you are tied to one particular delivery model when it comes to breakfast, said Crista. “Whatever works for your school is the key. Cindi has breakfast-in-the-classroom, and traditional breakfast in the cafeteria—it depends on each school, and what works for them.” You can explore many ways to get breakfast in the hands of students—for some, the traditional model works well, for others a classroom delivery, grab-n-go, or Second Chance model may be a better fit. “It’s about picking the right program for the school, and for the kids you’re serving,” said Crista.
Also, don’t be afraid to change course, said Cindi. “When we began, staff was taking carts down to classrooms but it was time-consuming. Teachers began sending a student—and you know, students love to help—so now they pick up the carts and deliver them to the classroom. Things will be developed, but can always be changed depending on what is best for each school and that school’s staff.”
Breakfast is: A Collaboration
Get everyone involved, right from the beginning—principals, school nutrition staff, custodial staff, and teachers. When staff has the opportunity to weigh in, pose questions, and contribute to the process, everything goes more smoothly. “We had the maintenance staff actually walk around the building, and talk about how we would stage the garbage receptacles, and what the process would be in taking care of the garbage after breakfast was served,” said Cindi.
Often times showing is even more effective than telling, said Crista Hawkins. “Connecting folks with people who have done breakfast-in-the-classroom, and creating a network of local folks is hugely helpful,” she explained. And don’t forget to reach out to organizations that can help, like the National Dairy Council and your local dairy council. “Fuel Up to Play 60 brings in a financial aspect, with the opportunity for funding for equipment (like a grab-n-go cart) and other items a school might need,” said Crista.
Breakfast is: In Need of Principal Champions
Both Crista and Cindi agree that principal support is an absolutely crucial component of the success of any breakfast-in-the-classroom program. “One of Cindi’s big successes in McMinnville has been showing the economic success of the program,” said Crista. Data-driven success stories can help persuade a reluctant principal to give breakfast-in-the-classroom a try; beyond that, it can turn them into one of your biggest supporters.
“I would really like principals to be open to the idea of breakfast-in-the-classroom,” said Cindi. “I think one of the main reasons our program is successful is because I put in that time up-front to visit, and to get the principal in my corner. Don’t be afraid to bring it to your staff, and to ask them if they are willing to try.”
Don’t forget to stop back tomorrow for Part Two in this series—McMinnville Principals Champion Breakfast-in-the-Classroom Model for Student Success.