Last month we posted a story on the School Nutrition Foundation Facebook page that took our online audience by storm. Reported by the Bismark Tribune, it was a short online piece about a new school breakfast kiosk at Mandan High School in North Dakota. The kiosk holds both hot and cold items, which means students have a wide variety of “grab-n-go” choices during school breakfast service. Over 2100 people saw that post, and more than 100 of you liked, shared and commented on it—you all made it one of our most popular Facebook posts of the entire month of April!
So when Cory Talbott, a registered dietitian and foodservice manager at Glen Burnie High School in Glen Burnie, Maryland, sent us an email with photos of her hot-and-cold breakfast kiosk we knew we had to sit down to talk to her about her breakfast-in-the-classroom program. Glen Burnie High is part of the Anne Arundel County Public Schools—don’t forget to find them on Facebook and Twitter!
Beyond Breakfast: Cory, tell us a little about yourself and your background in school nutrition.
Cory Talbott: I got my degree from Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. I’m a registered dietitian, and I’ve been with Glen Burnie High School for three years. Before that I was in correctional foodservice.
BB: Give us a snapshot of your enrollment and ADP.
CT: We have about 1863 students right now. We are just over 50 percent free/reduced. For lunch our ADP is around 700, serving between 690 to 750 students daily. At breakfast we hover around the 500 mark for both [services] combined—about 160 for first breakfast and then we see roughly 360 for Second Chance breakfast.
BB: So Second Chance breakfast really helped your breakfast numbers increase. What led you to the Second Chance model?
CT: We have a unique breakfast situation. The logistics are challenging; we have six different buildings—it’s kind of a community college design—with 84 homerooms, and some classes are upstairs, which makes delivering to the classroom difficult.
Instead of having a five-minute window to get to class, the kids have a seven-minute window between first and second periods. We roll out three kiosks in various locations–in the courtyard and around the school–and we also open the cafeteria. It’s definitely a collaborative effort; it takes all of the advisors and administrators helping out and coordinating kids. Our kiosks see 100 transactions or more in that time frame. It’s been tremendously successful and has made a huge impact. When I started three years ago a high breakfast count for me was 75-80. I got that up to 150 the first year I was here, and when we implemented second chance breakfast it increased our breakfast by 242 percent.
BB: That is a huge increase—242 percent!
CT: The kids like having options. It’s not universal free breakfast but the kids still have access to it, and they are using it.
BB: Tell us about the kiosks. Equipment is a topic we talk about a lot with breakfast-in-the-classroom. How did you go about equipment procurement?
CT: The kiosks were acquired from another county that wasn’t using them. The kiosks are huge, they drive like trains; they don’t even clear all of our doorways! They are four-well kiosks in the Cambro style; they have three compartments underneath for storage and three wells on tops where full pans can be inserted.
They are massive—it takes two people to drive them because they are so heavy. I dug brick out of my garden, washed them, wrapped them in foil, and heat them in a warmer; that’s what we use for heat. We fill empty sour cream containers with water and freeze them, and those are our ice packs to keep juice and milk cold.
A lot of our more popular items are hot, and I wanted to make sure the kids still had a hot choice.
BB: Wow, that’s creative. Did you have to get as creative with stakeholders in order to convince them to implement Second Chance breakfast?
CT: We definitely had stakeholders express strong opinions on both sides. Our principal is 100 percent behind the Second Chance; she’s told her staff that without a doubt this program will succeed, so make it happen. There are other [administrators] who support it, but are frustrated with the logistics. For some of our kids this is the only source of food, so administrators who understand [that] are a little more supportive of the program overall.
BB: How about other stakeholders like teachers and custodians? What was their response?
CT: As far as teachers, the majority of them appreciate how much more alive the students are when they get food. The same with our custodial staff; they are fabulous. They are there anyway, so cleaning up the classroom versus the cafeteria doesn’t matter.
BB: The participation kind of speaks for itself, but tell us about student reception to Second Chance breakfast.
CT: When you look at the statistics of those who participate in the program, and how many students talk to us and ask us about it, and it’s pretty incredible. I have students who approach me and ask me about meal programs and Second Chance! No matter where I am in the school they are asking me questions. This week we don’t have Second Chance because it’s a testing week; our first breakfast is at 234 because kids are coming in early as they realize what it is to not be hungry, what a difference it makes. They are asking left and right when Second Chance starts again.
BB: It’s great that Second Chance has helped engage the kids that way. We find that’s another benefit of breakfast-in-the-classroom, the increased engagement and participation among students.
CT: If you look at our breakfast and lunch stats, after we went to Second Chance our lunch, and the cafeteria got that extra exposure, we added about 100 lunches.
With Second Chance part of my goal was to make the cafeteria the cool place to be. I wanted it to be the “in” thing to do. Customer service is our number one thing. Dayna, my rockstar on the kiosks, she knows what the kids want before they even say it. They can go up to her and ask for “the usual” and she’s got it—they love that kind of service. Bringing that outside the cafeteria to new students, showing them the kind of service we have, now they know us and they come and find us, they ask us questions; they see the kiosks coming and the kids are running to open the doors for us, and we’re talking about high school kids! We had kids last year who graduated in May, and they would come back to pick up their things and go through the lunch line to say hi to their ladies.
BB: We love hearing that! Breakfast really does a lot more than just give kids that morning meal. Is there anything else you want to share with other school nutrition professionals about your Second Chance experience?
CT: Even though we’re serving school lunch, and following federal guidelines, all schools are unique. The reason we have been successful is because we took the unique things about the demographic we have, and the unique things about our school—like the different building configuration that could have been a detriment—and turned them on their heads to be positives that work in our favor. We try it and if it doesn’t work—oh well! You try again until you find what works, because the program is worth it.