Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) has proven to be the most effective strategy for increasing breakfast participation. It’s the best way to bring the benefits of school breakfast to ALL the students.
According to the Food Research and Action Center, districts using Breakfast in the Classroom have the highest school breakfast participation rates.
Eat Better = Learn Better
Eating breakfast at school has been shown to benefit students by increasing alertness, helping with weight control and providing the brain with the fuel it needs to start the day – which is especially important for children and adolescents.
Studies show that students who frequently ate school breakfast had math grades that averaged almost a letter grade higher than students who rarely ate school breakfast.
Many Students are Missing Out
Unfortunately, many students are not able to start their day with a healthy breakfast. Barriers, which include late arrivals to school, pressure to go directly to class and reluctance to be labeled “low-income”, have drastically reduced participation rates.
The BIC service model has proven to reduce the number of students who skip breakfast, as kids are more likely to eat when breakfast is served in the classroom. Classrooms offer designated spaces for breakfast that are familiar to students and provide a comfortable environment to eat and learn. Once you bring the food to the kids, just about every child eats.
Breakfast in the Classroom Myths
Despite the success of Breakfast in the Classroom, some myths still prevent schools from embracing the concept. Below are the most common myths, along with the facts that disprove them.
Perception: Breakfast in the Classroom will lead to a messy classroom.
Reality: Schools that have implement BIC report that trash and messes were easily handled and didn’t cause a problem as originally anticipated.
When planning BIC menus, it’s important to keep it simple to reduce messiness. Include hand-held items that students can easily eat. Disinfectant wipes, paper towels and a broom/dustpan can be placed in each classroom for spills, but these items are rarely needed.
Helpful Tip: Consider having students take an active role in maintaining the classroom by assigning jobs on a rotating basis. It’s a great opportunity to teach them about responsibility. When breakfast is over, have them properly dispose of the trash and move the garbage can into the hallway for custodial staff to empty.
Perception: Breakfast in the Classroom will take away from instructional time.
Reality: Testimonials from teachers and other school staff who have implemented BIC suggest instructional time is not affected. In fact, data has shown it actually enhances the quality of instructional time.
BIC is a positive way for both teachers and children to begin the school day. Yes, you may lose some instructional minutes, but students who have eaten breakfast are also more energetic and ready to learn. It’s not about the minutes of instruction time, but the quality of the instructional time, which is sure to be improved by alert, happy students.
Perception: Teachers may not accurately count the students who eat breakfast.
Reality: The first step is to become familiar with the USDA requirements and regulations for meal counting at point of service (POS). Providing teaching staff with short training sessions on how to count and how to assure that each student receives the necessary components as planned at the POS is a good next step.
Once the BIC program is in place and operating, you’ll need to follow up regularly to ensure that the rules are being followed. The count must reflect the ACTUAL number of students who RECEIVED breakfast that day. This can be accomplished easily by developing a process much like taking attendance.
Helpful Tip: Consider taking the morning attendance at the same time that you are taking POS counts.
Programs like Breakfast in the Classroom have a huge impact on students – far beyond just putting food in their bellies. So, whether you’re a school administrator, a teacher or a school nutrition professional, I hope this information is helpful as you make your case for BIC in your school or district.