In Virginia, breakfast-in-the-classroom is having a moment. Thanks to support from Governor Terry McAuliffe and first lady Dorothy McAuliffe, schools are benefitting from increased visibility—and funding—for alternative breakfast programs across the state. We recently sat down to chat with Deborah Shiflett, past president of SNA’s Virginia chapter, and supervisor of the Food Services department for Chesterfield County Public Schools about why BIC is finding a successful foothold in Virginia.
“Breakfast has seen a big push in our state,” explained Deborah. “Our first lady has really pushed for additional breakfast incentives within the state to help schools increase the number of students they are feeding at breakfast, and our governor has asked for twice as much funding for breakfast-in-the-classroom for the coming year. I think the work that our association is doing, that the governor’s office is doing, is helping to promote [BIC].”
Now in her twenty-third year as a school nutrition professional, Shiflett is the first—and only—person from Virginia to serve two terms as president of Virginia SNA. After the president-elect who was to succeed her resigned, Deborah stayed on for another year, and it was through her tenure as president at SNA-VA that she became part of the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom team.
“I was one of many folks trying to encourage people to go out and apply for the Walmart breakfast grant,” said Deborah. “We had a meeting to invite districts to learn about the grants, and we tried to target those districts in high need of assistance. We wanted to promote the grants, but also the breakfast-in-the-classroom concept.”
In her “post-presidential” life, Deborah continues to be active on the SNA-VA board, as well as with her work on the PPL committee. She’ll be heading to both LAC and Virginia’s Day on the Hill, where she plans to continue to promote the message of the benefits of breakfast-in-the-classroom. Further, breakfast-in-the-classroom has come to her home district—Chesterfield County—where they are currently rolling out new programs one-by-one.
“I’ll be at LAC to fight for our programs there, and our state has a ‘Day on the Hill’ that’s similar to LAC,” explained Deborah. “It’s a morning where we get together and meet with our representatives to help support, and hopefully encourage them to vote for the items in the governor’s budget in support of our programs.”
And for Chesterfield County students, breakfast-in-the-classroom is proving successful one school at a time.
“This year is the first time we’ve done a true ‘breakfast-in-the-classroom’ program, where we deliver directly to the classroom,” said Deborah. “We started one back in November that was full-force—a true breakfast-in-the-classroom, prepared in the cafeteria and packed up to be physically delivered to the classroom. We have another this week that started up in just one grade, and next week we have another school that we’ll be doing [BIC] school-wide; the following week we’re bringing up another school to school-wide [BIC], and we have more schools interested as well.”
Going forward, Deborah hopes that Governor McAuliffe and his wife Dorothy continue to shine the spotlight on the importance of school meals, and school breakfast in particular. Virginia couldn’t ask for a better BIC champion than the first lady, said Deborah.
“She is a great support to us, and she’s not trying to tell us what to do—she’s asking us what she can do to help improve our programs,” Deborah explained. “She’s coming to the people on the forefront and asking them for their help; asking for their concerns, what can be done better, and working hard. She’s also got a great team working in her office, and they are reaching out not just to foodservice operations but to principals and superintendents, trying to get them on board, and working with them to get the message out that kids need breakfast and to figure out how to reach those students who are most in need.”