For a third year in a row, during the week leading up to Thanksgiving, my students and I spend our classes reflecting upon and sharing what we are thankful for. While a relatively new tradition, it has become my favorite way to start the holiday. My students’ willingness to step outside of their comfort zones as they share powerful anecdotes that speak to their gratitude for family, health, and life never ceases to amaze me. It is an important reminder of what this holiday represents.
For many of us, Thanksgiving is a time when we sit down with those whom we hold most dear, and give thanks for all that we have. As we do so, we often indulge in the sort of feast that only comes around once a year – a cornucopia of sustenance that leaves us waiting 364 more days until we can do it all over again.
As we sit down around the dinner table, however, let us remember how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy the sort of meal many of us will partake in.
Let us ensure that we are not abusing this privilege and wasting food that would otherwise sustain someone who does not have any.
According to a report from the University of Arizona in Tucson, 40% of food in the United States is thrown out every year – about $165 dollars worth.
For a country where one in seven households do not know where their next meal is coming from, this is a sobering and startling statistic. Thankfully, simply increasing public awareness around the issue can curb much of this waste. While a large amount is lost across the “farm to fork” system – farming, harvesting, packaging, processing, distribution, grocery stores – the most significant amount of waste takes place within the household. Nearly 25% of all food purchased is never used. As one might expect, this phenomenon is exacerbated during a holiday at which food is front and center.
So before putting five scoops of macaroni, three turkey legs, and the entire bowl of mashed potatoes on your plate this year, remember that you can always go back for seconds. If you have unused cans of beans or vegetables after Thursday that might otherwise sit in the back of your pantry the rest of the year, take the time to bring them to a food bank in your city. By saving just 15% of the food we throw away, we could feed 25 millions Americans.
Last week, a terrific Op-Ed was featured on @Good titled, “No Child Left Behind? How About 'No Kid Hungry'?” This piece touched on the growing problem of child hunger in the United States and how hunger affects both student health and academic achievement. The Op-Ed was written by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and Share Our Strength Founder and CEO Billy Shore and illustrated new findings from Share Our Strength's annual nationwide poll of K-8 public school staff about hunger in schools. It also included a bold solution to child hunger in the form of school breakfast and programs like Breakfast in the Classroom.
To view the full Op-Ed you can find it here.
It’s that time when students and teachers head back to the classroom. Educators are focused on how best to meet their students' needs—and one way they are doing that is by making sure their students have a nutritious start to their day.
New findings from a national survey released by Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign show that breakfast is key to academic success and that rethinking how we serve school breakfast is crucial to enhancing the educational experience for all. The connection between good nutrition and academic success is not new to educators. Teachers know firsthand that hungry students cannot learn.
Princess Moss, an elementary school teacher from Virginia and National Education Association Executive Committee member shares her story about hungry children in her classroom, "As an elementary school teacher, I can assure you that I had students who came into my classroom without having eaten anything since lunch the previous day. Child hunger is a serious problem that negatively affected my student's self-esteem, ability to learn, and behavior. I would always keep snacks in my class for students who were hungry and having trouble concentrating during instructional time."
“Hunger In Our Schools: Teachers’ Report 2013,” surveyed more than 1,200 K-8 teachers and principals nationwide and found that:
- Three out of four K-8 public school teachers and principals see kids who regularly come to school hungry.
- On average, teachers spend $37 a month buying food for hungry students—up from $26 a month in 2012. Principals report buying food for students often and spending about $60 a month.
- Of the more than 21 million low-income kids in the U.S. who rely on a free or reduced-price school lunch, only half – about 11 million – are also getting a school breakfast.
- More than half of teachers report seeing behavior and health improvements in students since implementing breakfast in the classroom programs.
- On average, teachers say eating breakfast in the classroom takes about 15 minutes in the morning.
NEA HIN has worked with NEA affiliates in thirteen states to implement local Breakfast in the Classroom programs. We have seen the difference breakfast makes in helping students stay alert and grow strong. As you can see in this short video, NEA leaders agree that Breakfast in the Classroom produces real benefits for kids.
Breakfast is brain power and NEA HIN and Share Our Strength want to help increase school breakfast participation at your school. Check out our free resource, the Start School With Breakfast Guide which provides the benefits of school breakfast and add your school to the map of school breakfast programs across the country.
As summer comes to an end, I look forward to another great back to school season. This time of year is always full of new beginnings. Whether it’s a new class of students, a newly renovated school building or a new job there are lots of things to be excited about.
NEA HIN has some great NEW resources for educators. You can order these and all of your favorite NEA HIN resources using our online store. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Rx for Understanding (Grades 9-12) – This resource is a standards-based, cross-curricular teaching guide geared for students in grades 9-12. It contains 10 lessons that give students an opportunity to learn key concepts about the misuse, abuse, and proper use of prescription drugs.
- Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives 2013® – This resource was developed for educators to help support your ongoing efforts to teach students about being healthy. Parents, after-school programs, and caregivers can also use the materials in the program.
- How YOU Can Support Healthy Schools – This resource has simple steps you can take to support healthy food choices at your school.
NEA HIN also wants to acknowledge the 2013 NEA HIN Champions. NEA HIN “Champions” are NEA leaders who believe and are willing to help spread the word that students need to be healthy to learn and thrive. Join us in acknowledging these Champions by sharing their inspiring stories. If you are interested in becoming a NEA HIN Champion please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Kathryn Castle
- Cathy Koehler
- Carolyn Doggett
- Brent McKim
- Elizabeth “Liz” Foster
- Princess Moss
- Sherry J. Morgan
- Carolyn Smith-Evans
- Pat Nicholson
- Donna Nielsen
- Tom Nicholas
Have a happy back to school season from NEA HIN!
Thanks to the hard work and determination of educators and advocates across the country there is a lot to report about in school breakfast land. At NEA HIN, an important part of our school breakfast work is supporting educators as well as NEA state and local associations to advocate for and implement alternative breakfast programs. Here’s a quick run through of our top breakfast news:
- Arkansas – Cathy Koehler is not only President of the Little Rock Education Association but is one of the biggest supporters of Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) in her school district. In recognition of her service to students and school health, Cathy was named one of Action for Health Kid’s Healthy School Heroes. Cathy was also a 2013 NEA HIN Champion. You can read more about her dedication to healthy and safe schools here.
- Colorado – Recently, important breakfast legislature titled, “Breakfast After the Bell” was put into law requiring Denver Public Schools to serve a nutritious after-the-bell breakfast if 80 percent or more of the student body is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The bill was supported by the Colorado Education Association and it is estimated that more than 80,000 additional students will now receive the benefits of breakfast. Click here to read more about NEA HIN’s BIC program in Denver.
- Connecticut – NEA HIN has been working closely with our friends at the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) to help increase school breakfast participation. At a recent state breakfast summit hosted by End Hunger CT, Sheila Cohen, President of CEA spoke passionately about how hunger hurts and impedes a student's ability to learn. She and the CEA Board of Directors also voted to publicly support ‘Breakfast in the Classroom’ and urged schools to participate in the program. You can read more about the ongoing breakfast work in Connecticut here.
- Illinois - The Illinois State Board of Education announced the winners of the Illinois School Breakfast Challenge, showcasing the link between a nutritious breakfast and classroom performance. Schools from across the state were awarded cash prizes for boosting their daily breakfast participation rates. Two of the schools to win an award were Harriet Gifford Elementary and Sheridan Elementary in Elgin, IL. Both schools were funded by NEA HIN and the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom. Click here to learn more about NEA HIN’s BIC program in Elgin.
Last but not least, you can click here to watch NEA HIN’s new Breakfast in the Classroom video. Learn more about how educators are making a difference in ending child hunger and share the video with your friends and colleagues. Stay connected to NEA HIN on Facebook or Twitter and let us know what breakfast news is happening in your school district!
What a great day we had today! We met over 600 additional educators in the Hall of Health and Safety. We gave away hundreds of publications and our partners reached thousands of NEA members with valuable information and resources. You can see our pictures on Facebook and Twitter. And don't forget to visit Bag the Junk on Facebook to see all the wonderful carrot pictures in support of healthy school food. They will be up next week.
Thanks to everyone who visited and stopped to join the health and safety movement. We will be working hard all year to make sure that every student and educator has a safe school environment and can make healthy choices every day.
See you next year in Denver.
You’ve heard the numbers and seen the statistics; 16 million children (about 1 in 5) live in food insecure households in the United States. Hunger can be found in every state, and NEA members see hungry children in their classrooms every day.
Educators are changing the conversation on child hunger and taking a stand against hunger by supporting programs like Breakfast in the Classroom. NEA HIN is pleased to release a new video that highlights the roles educators are playing to ensure their students have the healthy, nutritious food they need to be successful.
Since working at NEA HIN, I have been amazed by the dedication and determination of NEA members to help solve America’s toughest challenges, including child hunger. Educators like:
- Hannah McClorin, a Food Service Manager at Carrollton Elementary School in Maryland, feeds over 500 students a day through a Grab n’ Go universal breakfast model.
- Debra Hufschmitt, a Third Grade Teacher at Sedgefield Elementary School in North Carolina, participates in a breakfast in the classroom program. Since the program started she no longer sees her students coming into class with headaches and stomach aches.
- Mark Jewell, Vice President of the North Carolina Association of Educators, is an advocate for hungry children. He has spoken out about child hunger and knows that children cannot learn when they are hungry.
These are just a few of the voices featured in our new video. Help us spread the word and consider sharing this video with your networks. Together, we can end child hunger.
The NEA Expo opened this morning in Atlanta, Georgia and the Hall of Health and Safety was soon humming with activity. NEA educators coming to the hall were able to visit the booths of NEA HIN, our Bag the Junk project, and our Hall of Health and Safety partners.
Among the highlights of the day were the over 1000 educators who learned about new NEA HIN resources like The Food Allergy Book, Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives (2013), and Rx for Understanding: Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse. They also learned about our new online store. Other visitors learned about our Crisis Guide and the new Jerald L. Newberry School Safety Fund.
We had visits today from a number of NEA HIN Champions who are leading actions, large and small to create healthy and safe schools. And visitors to the NEA HIN booth got the chance to spin our prize wheel where everyone is a winner!
If you are in Atlanta at the Expo, please joins us on July 2 for the second and final day of the NEA Expo. We hope to see you there.
This time of year, children across the country are growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables —at school. If you’re looking for ways to add excitement to your Math, Science, or English Language Arts lessons next year, consider integrating school garden experiences. Naturally “hands-on” and fun, there are endless ways to engage children in meaningful learning.
Two new curricula from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) make this easier than ever, with turn-key lessons that connect school gardens with nutrition messages in the classroom, school cafeteria, and at home. Whether your growing season is long or short, these materials can help you add fun and interactive activities to core subjects and help your students learn healthy eating habits.
Dig In! is a supplemental unit with 10 lessons, a gardening guide, Dig In! at Home booklets for parents/caregivers, and six colorful posters encouraging fruit and vegetable choices.
For 3rd and 4th grades, The Great Garden Detective Adventure includes 11 lessons, bulletin board materials, veggie dice, fruit and vegetable flash cards, and 10 issues of Garden Detective News for parents/caregivers.
Both Dig In! and The Great Garden Detective Adventure materials are free and available through USDA’s Team Nutrition initiative. All materials are available online and schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Program will be able to order free printed copies this summer (including enough full color take-homes for your whole class). @teamnutrition
To make planning easier, these lessons provide timing/pacing information and are linked to education standards in one or more of the following subjects: Science (National Academy of Sciences), English Language Arts (Common Core State Standards Initiative), Math (Common Core State Standards Initiative), and Health (American Cancer Society).
You don’t need to be an expert gardener to help children explore how fruits and vegetables are grown. Both of the curricula above include guidance to help you create a special place for children to learn — whether your school has a large plot of land or a sunny windowsill. Tasting and food preparation activities are an important part of garden learning, and there are many ways these can be implemented in the school setting. Today, there are also many grants and community resources to help support your school garden efforts. It’s a perfect time to Dig In! and explore the opportunities in the garden and on your plate!
The Elgin Teachers Association has been instrumental in working with the school district to champion the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program. Recently, I was able to catch up with Kathryn Castle, President of the Elgin Teachers Association to hear about the recent BIC media event that took place at Harriet Gifford Elementary School and find out how the program is going. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Tell us about your visit to Harriett Gifford Elementary School and what you saw?
KC: I had the pleasure of sitting in on a 2nd grade classroom. The teachers and students were all very much in a routine for their classroom breakfast. The students were eating without needing assistance or encouragement. While students were eating, other routines continued in preparation for the learning that was to follow.
2. What feedback did you hear from the teachers and school staff about BIC?
KC: A lot of teachers stated that it was a rocky start, as all new processes are, but that things now are now running smoothly. Teachers appreciate being able to express their concerns and opinions about the program and feel that overall students are engaged in the routines and are prepared to learn.
3. Why did ETA want to be involved in bringing the BIC program to Elgin U-46 School District?
KC: The teachers and our school families are a community that comes together in the best interests of our children. We need to support each other in any way we can if our schools are to succeed in providing the best learning environments. The ongoing challenges to bring quality schools to all neighborhoods need the collaborative efforts of many. This project provided the teachers to not only impact the lives of their students, but also allowed their input on how best to make this work in each classroom.
4. Growing up what was your favorite breakfast food?
KC: Snap, Crackle and Pop were always my friends at the breakfast table!
Elgin U-46 School District in Elgin, IL is one of 10 schools districts chosen to receive funding from the Walmart Foundation to increase the number of students participating in the school breakfast program. To learn more about the BIC Program in Elgin, check out Part 1 of our spotlight on their district.
ETA and the Illinois Education Association (IEA) have been valued partners in the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom program. To learn more about ETA visit http://theeta.org/ and to learn more about IEA visit http://www.ieanea.org/.
To learn more about the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom visit www.breakfastintheclassroom.org.
No experience has ever broadened my perspective the way teaching has. On a daily basis, I bear witness to the small miracles happening in and around my school by the people doing incredible work on behalf of our students and their families. At the same time however, I am also witness to some of the gross injustices in my community that make social, economic, and academic mobility so difficult.
I remember Tyrone, a tall, confident student who is as loquacious as he is bright, walking into my classroom with three bags of salt & vinegar chips, a donut, and a can of Coke at 7:30 in the morning. Initially, I thought of this as simply a one-off occurrence—nothing more than a young boy with teenage taste buds reveling in the freedom to have chips for breakfast every once in a while—harmless. As the days and weeks went on however, the presence of chips, candy, and donuts dangling from Tyrone’s fingers became a classroom staple along with his inability to stay awake in class. “Tyrone, how can you eat such junk so early in the morning?”
“I mean, it’s not like there’s anything else to eat,” he responded matter-of-factly. Taken aback I asked, “Surely you could have gotten some fruit—an apple, a banana, some oranges?” With unapologetic pragmatism, Tyrone replied. “Where would I get that from? There are no grocery stores around here, and these gas stations don’t sell fruit. Come on, Mr. Smith.”
23.5 million Americans live in food deserts, which disproportionately exist in communities of color. Having never lived outside of this neighborhood, my student, Tyrone knows no other reality. Unaware of the correlation between access to healthy food and skin color, he has yet to realize the deep connection between his zip code and his health.
What my kids do or do not eat affects how they are able to perform when they come to my class. Where grocery stores do or do not decide to build affects the health of my students and their families. What places do or do not accept WIC and food stamps affects the life expectancies of the residents in a community.
Whether it is Tyrone, Briana, Jose, or Olivia, the unwarranted difficulty that so many students in low-income neighborhoods experience accessing healthy food has pervasive effects on their ability to succeed academically.
As an educator, I have seen my role in the classroom expand. While some may perceive us as solely academic facilitators, we are also spokespersons for our students and their causes. We champion not only their intellect, but also their well-being.
Please watch "Place Matters" by Clint Smith and share!
Clint Smith is a teacher at Parkdale High School in Prince George's County, Maryland. Clint was also awarded the 2013 Christine D. Sarbanes Maryland Teacher of the Year by the Maryland Humanities Council.
This blog originally posted on May 2nd, 2013
I am looking forward to Friday because it’s the 2nd Annual Connecticut School Breakfast Summit! I’ll be in Hartford, CT to join teachers, administrators, community members, food service directors and school nurses to learn about how the School Breakfast Program can foster student academic achievement.
Sponsored by CT No Kid Hungry Campaign, this year’s Summit looks fantastic and will feature Sheila Cohen, President of the Connecticut Education Association (CEA). We are thrilled to be working with CEA and look forward to partnering with them on future breakfast-related projects.
On the agenda are also some great breakout sessions. I will be speaking at a breakout session from 1:05pm-1:45pm on promoting, marketing and increasing participation in school breakfast programs. Joining me to co-present are our partners from the Food Research and Action Center, End Hunger Connecticut! and Share Our Strength. For more information about the School Breakfast Summit visit www.ctschoolbreakfast.org.
Published: Saturday, Apr. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 11A http://www.sacbee.com/2013/04/06/5320555/viewpoints-schools-need-to-help.html
As a mom and teacher, I am challenged again and again by the amount of junk food in our nation's schools. Like all parents, I want my child to be healthy, happy and successful.
The same is true for teachers. We're in it for the kids; our goal is to help them thrive. From both sides of the fence, I do the best I can with the time and resources I have, but I need help, and I expect schools to back my efforts.
Whether we're relying on the school lunch or brown-bagging it, parents want to make sure our kids get a good, nutritious meal. Yet often the choices we make for kids can't compete against what the vending machines and à la carte lines have to offer. Should we really be surprised if our third-graders use their milk money to buy a cleverly-branded sugary drink?
When I taught in elementary and middle schools in San Bernardino, I often struggled to keep students focused after lunch. Every day, I battled the afternoon slump brought on by the chips, cookies, soda and other empty calories kids had consumed before class.
There's simply no good reason to sell unhealthy fare in our schools. It undermines parents' efforts to raise healthy kids, makes it harder for teachers to do their jobs well, and contributes to an obesity epidemic that threatens the health of more than 23.5 million children and teens.
About 40 percent of students buy and eat one or more snacks at school, and almost 70 percent buy and consume at least one sugary drink. One report found that students consume almost 400 billion calories from junk foods sold in our nation's schools each year. These numbers are appalling; it shouldn't have to be this way.
Thankfully, here in California, our schools tell a different story. My daughter was in third grade in 2007 when California set limits for the calories, fat and sugar content of school snacks. This law, and the 2009 law that banned some sugary drinks in our state's high schools, helped my daughter and her peers recognize the importance of healthy eating because our schools started to reinforce what so many parents are doing at home.
Compared with many other states, California's nutrition standards for school snacks and drinks are quite strong. But the state does allow middle and high schools to sell sugary sports drinks, and all public schools can sell 2 percent milk, as opposed to low-fat options like 1 percent or skim. Worse yet are the states that offer kids little or no protection against the widespread availability of junk foods and unhealthy drinks at school.
This may change soon, however, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed new national standards for school snacks and drinks, which have not been updated since 1979. If USDA issues strong final standards, it will help ensure that kids have healthy choices in the vending machines, à la carte lines and stores available at school – no matter where they live. Such standards will help complement the new nutrition standards for school meals that went into effect in fall 2012.
These standards support the efforts of parents and the ability of kids to learn, and there are other important benefits as well. Restricting sales of unhealthy fare has also been shown to improve children's diets, reduce weight gain, and even increase school food service revenues.
Improving school foods won't solve all the problems we face as parents and teachers, but it's a critical step in improving the health of this generation and those to come. We should tell USDA we support their efforts and encourage schools to stand with us for healthy kids.
Mikki Cichocki, who is assigned to youth services in San Bernardino City Unified School District, is secretary-treasurer of the California Teachers Association.
April 5th is the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As we honor Dr. King’s astonishing legacy and celebrate the civil rights gains that he inspired, the NEA Health Information Network also recognizes that we as a nation have not done enough to ensure that all minority communities have quality access to health and healthcare.
This disparity has received federal attention. In 2001, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established April as National Minority Health Month to recognize the disproportionate rates of access and achieve health equity.
This year, the theme of National Minority Health Month is, Advance Health Equity Now: Uniting Our Communities to Bring Health Care Coverage to All.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has outlined a clear action plan to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities:
- Transform health care;
- Strengthen the nation’s health and human services infrastructure and workforce;
- Advance health, safety and well-being of the American People;
- Advance scientific knowledge and innovation; and
- Increase efficiency, transparency and accountability of HHS programs
Many federal agencies partner in this effort: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA); and The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA), to name a few.
In support of such work, NEA HIN implements a number of programs that focus on the health issues that disproportionately affect minority populations. In the area of nutrition, NEA HIN recognizes that the prevalence of obesity disproportionately affects African-American, Hispanic, and Native American children. That’s one reason why NEA HIN has launched the Bag the Junk initiative, to ensure all children have access to healthier food and beverage choices in schools.
NEA HIN also knows that Black and Hispanic households with higher rates of food insecurity, over 25 percent. That’s one reason why NEA HIN launched a Breakfast in the Classroom initiative to increase breakfast consumption among schoolchildren and spark the academic and nutritional gains associated with the morning meal. Since 2010, NEA HIN has worked in 13 high-need school districts to help bring breakfast into the classroom to all children.
Approximately 7 million children (ages 0 to 17) in the U.S. have asthma, with poor and minority children suffering a greater burden of the disease. 16 percent of non-Hispanic black children suffer from asthma in the U.S. compared to 8.2 percent among non-Hispanic white and 7.9 percent among Hispanic children. NEA HIN’s environmental health programs aim to educate NEA members on asthma and help reduce exposure to common asthma triggers in schools. Learn more about asthma and asthma triggers by taking NEA HIN’s online course Managing Asthma in the School Environment: What NEA Members Need to Know. To access the course, go to www.neaacademy.org/leader-to-leader/managing-asthma-in-the-school-environment-what-nea-members-need-to-know.html.
During National Minority Health Month, you can visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website to get more information about health care initiatives, statistics, publications and workshops on minority health. You might be inspired by a way you can take an action to help improve the health of our communities and increase access to quality, affordable health care for everyone.
March has been quite an exciting month thanks to National School Breakfast Week and National Nutrition Month! We are thrilled with the advocacy we have seen, heard and read about in support of school breakfast to help students learn.
This month, teachers, principals, custodians, food service workers, paraeducators and NEA leaders around the country are standing up to demonstrate their commitment to hungry children and school breakfast. With all of the recent data linking breakfast to higher school attendance, math scores and graduation rates, it's no surprise that lots of people are taking notice!
Here is a list of our top 5 favorite National School Breakfast Week stories. Let us know which one you like best!
- Dallas rocks school breakfast! The Dallas Independent School District (DISD) recently voted to combat hunger by bringing breakfast into the classroom for all of its 157,000 students. DISD was one of our first Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) districts to come on board thanks to the support of NEA Dallas. This great video from the Egg Nutrition Center (ENC) Teacher-Exchange shows the BIC program in action.
- Little Rock knows the importance of school breakfast! Little Rock Education Association (LREA) President Cathy Koehler is a champion for ending child hunger in her district. She has been spreading the word about the importance of BIC and in this video she partners with No Kid Hungry Arkansas to highlight the BIC program at Franklin Elementary in Little Rock, AR.
- Colorado supports Breakfast in the Classroom! Colorado Education Association (CEA) President Kerrie Dallman and Vice President Amie Baca-Oehlert share breakfast with kindergarteners at Dupont Elementary in Commerce City. CEA promotes BIC as an effective way to improve student health and achievement. This video shows both Kerrie and Amie in action and helping out with breakfast after the bell!
- Give every child a free breakfast! John Wilson wrote a great blog for Education Week about raising the consciences of decision-makers to make new commitments to implement breakfast programs that feed every child in our schools.
- School breakfast matters! National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel says, “Over 16 million children are food insecure, but if we work together, we can change the lives of students affected by hunger.” Check out his call to action!
I remember the students who came to my class without eating breakfast. They were tired, unable to concentrate and always asking to visit the nurse’s office. These children thought more of their next meal than geometry or algebra. As a former math teacher with 23 years in the classroom, I have seen too many children struggle because of hunger. As president of the National Education Association, I hear from teachers, cafeteria workers, custodians and other school employees who see the faces of malnourished children every day and cannot stand idle.
No child deserves to go hungry. At the start of this school year, I challenged us as a nation to tackle the scourge of child hunger. Over 16 million children are food insecure. That’s more than 1 in 5 children in the United States who do not have access to adequate, nutritious food. March, which began with National School Breakfast Week, is a good time to remind people that child hunger exists and is a solvable problem – if we work together.
The NEA Health Information Network and School Nutrition Foundation along with the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom are making inroads by working to end hunger in schools across the country. These groups are modifying the federally-funded School Breakfast Program to provide breakfast to students in their classrooms at the start of the school day. To date, Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) has enabled over 70,000 students to reap the benefits associated with the most important meal of the day. The program is successful because everyone in the school building is united under a shared goal: changing the lives of students affected by hunger.
Research shows that students who eat school breakfast attend 1.5 more days of school per year and achieve a whopping 17.5 percent higher score in math, according to a new report from Share Our Strength. This report also found that students who attend class regularly have a 20 percent higher rate of graduating high school, which translates into higher wages and higher employment. Good nutrition is an integral part of a child’s overall success. This report provides further proof of the undeniable connection between good health and learning.
Fighting child hunger requires a holistic approach, from support programs like BIC and sharing resources that increase knowledge about this issue, to protecting federal food assistance services like the School Breakfast Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. These nutrition and safety net programs are vital to our children’s future, and we cannot afford to lose them as Congress hammers out a solution to budget-slashing “sequestration” cuts.
The political issues being debated on Capitol Hill can be complex; the solution to hunger is not. NEA is proud to support initiatives that increase student participation in school breakfast, because our children are counting on us.
Dennis Van Roekel is president of the National Education Association and an NEA HIN Board Member.
This blog was adapted from a post that appeared on the School Nutrition Foundation’s website Beyond Breakfast.
|Colorado Education Association President Kerrie Dallman and Vice President Amie Baca-Oehlert serve breakfast after the bell to a Kindergarten class at Dupont Elementary in Commerce City (just north of Denver) during a Read Across America event.|
National School Breakfast Week may almost be over but we are committed to spreading the importance of school breakfast every day! In case you missed it, we had a terrific guest blog from NEA President Dennis Van Roekel who reminded us that although hunger exists it is a solvable problem - if we work together. Also, John Wilson, a longtime friend of NEA HIN, wrote a fantastic blog for Education Week about making new commitments to implement breakfast programs that feed every child in our schools. To see all of our School Breakfast Week information check out our webpage here.
Through working with various partners such as the Food Research and Action Center, National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation, School Nutrition Foundation and Share Our Strength we have also been able to shine a spotlight on so many school districts who are working together to promote school breakfast as a way to combat child hunger.
Last week, a lot happened! We celebrated the National Education Association's Read Across America Day, and we also partnered with Share Our Strength on two media events to promote their new report: Ending Child Hunger: A Social Impact Analysis. This report finds federal programs like school breakfast are important in the fight to end childhood hunger. You can download the report from our School Breakfast Week page.
The first media event happened in Annapolis, Maryland with the Maryland State Education Association and the second took place in Little Rock, Arkansas with the Little Rock Education Association. These events also promoted our partnership and work to increase school breakfast participation. Here is a recap of all we've been up to recently:
- Last week, schools around the country celebrated the importance of reading through various Read Across America events. NEA Executive Committee Member Princess Moss shared her favorite books to read to students over breakfast and Colorado Education Association President Kerrie Dallman and Vice President Amie Baca-Oehlert served breakfast to students at a Read Across America event outside Denver, Colorado! Check out the great picture of Kerrie and Amie serving up a nutritious breakfast to students.
- Annapolis, Maryland: Gov. Martin O’Malley joined students and anti-hunger advocates at Eastport Elementary for a breakfast celebration. Gov. O’Malley has included $1.8 million dollars in his proposed budget towards expanding Maryland Meals for Achievement, a program that feeds breakfast to students. Maryland State Education Association Vice-President Cheryl Bost spoke about the importance of programs like Maryland Meals for Achievement, “Sometimes the conversation focuses on so much of the big and abstract issues and reforms that we overlook the simple straightforward programs like Meals for Maryland.” To see more about the event click here.
- Little Rock, Arkansas: First Lady Ginger Beebe joined education leaders and anti-hunger advocates to discuss the impact of school breakfast on academic achievement. Cathy Koehler, President of the Little Rock Education Association was among the advocates who spoke about her involvement with programs like Breakfast in the Classroom, “As an educator, I’ve seen the difference school breakfast and healthy food skills make in a child’s life. Knowing they can start the day with the fuel they need to learn gives students a leg-up every day.” Little Rock, AK was one of the first five districts selected by the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom to receive a grant to implement breakfast in the classroom. Cathy is a true champion for hungry children in Arkansas and even wrote an Op-Ed in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about the importance of school breakfast.
If you would like to get involved in increasing school breakfast participation at your school, get a copy of our Start School with Breakfast Guide. This publication was created in partnership with Share Our Strength to promote alternative breakfast models.
The NEA Health Information Network (NEA HIN) loves Education Support Professionals (ESPs) almost as much as we love school breakfast! In honor of National School Breakfast Week, NEA HIN wants to acknowledge the many roles that ESPs play in order to make programs like Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) successful:
- Custodial and Maintenance Services – These men and women guard school cleanliness and take care of trash removal, pests and recycling. They play a huge role in making sure breakfast in the classroom is not a mess!
- Food services – Not just your typical lunch ladies! These men and women ensure that students have the brain food and fuel they need to be successful. They provide school breakfast, lunch, snack, supper and love to students.
- Health and student services – This job group encompasses school nurses, wellness professionals and parents. They support student health both in and outside of the school building.
- Paraeducators – Assist with instructional and non-instructional support. They play a critical role in improving student achievement and help make sure students get the proper nutrition they need in the morning.
- Transportation Services – These individuals help with getting students to-and-from school safely every day. They look out for students before and after the school day.
ESPs are on the front lines of hunger and know which students and families are food insecure. On average, 20.3 million children get a free or reduced-price lunch on a typical school day but only 9.8 million children get a free or reduced-price breakfast. By transitioning to a service model that provides breakfast in the classroom, schools can increase participation, increase revenue, and improve the health and well-being of their students.
NEA HIN works closely with ESPs in our BIC program to ensure that they have a voice in how the program is implemented and provide training to avoid issues at the onset. ESPs have told us that BIC does not create extra work but does require changes to the start of the school day and establishing a new routine.
If you are an ESP and interested in brining Breakfast in the Classroom to your school district we can help you! Here are some initial steps you can take to get involved in combating child hunger:
- Use our “Start School with Breakfast Guide” and learn about the benefits of school breakfast, new ways to increase school breakfast participation, useful tools for advocates and success stories from other districts.
- Speak with your school nutrition director or school administrator about getting Breakfast in the Classroom at your school.
- Talk to your school’s health and wellness committee. Find out who is on the team and how nutrition policies are instituted at your school or in your district.
- Find out what other schools are doing and model your program based on the ideas that you like and think would work in your school.
- Organize! Health and safety issues such as hunger affect 1 in 5 children in the United States. Contact your local association and rally around this important issue.
Also, if you are an ESP attending NEA’s National ESP Conference on March 8-10, in Louisville, KY look for our session on Breakfast in the Classroom. We will be sharing strategies for overcoming obstacles and discussing ways to expand school breakfast programs in school districts. We will be joined by ESPs from Jefferson County, Kentucky and Des Moines, IA who successfully implemented a Breakfast in the Classroom program. We will be posting via social media from the conference using the hashtag #2013NEAESP.
For more information about National School Breakfast Week visit us at www.neahin.org/schoolbreakfastweek. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We are using the hashtags #lovebreakfast and #NSBW13.
It’s a chilly Tuesday morning and students at Carrollton Elementary School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, file off their buses and into the cafeteria in orderly lines. Gloves come off of little hands as little feet march up to a cart where the children are handed a hot breakfast to carry to their classrooms and eat at their desks. It’s all part of the school’s new Breakfast in the Classroom program.
“Good morning! Good morning!” the food service personnel call out as they hand each student a bag packed with a turkey sausage biscuit, an apple, a carton of milk and orange juice. (There’s also a cereal option for kids with food intolerances.)
One student in a dark blue parka holds the warm bag up to his nose, closes his eyes and breathes deep. “Yum!” he says.
“I have no children of my own, and it just warms my heart to see the happy young faces when they get their breakfasts,” says Ann Peltier, who has worked in the Carrollton Elementary School cafeteria for 35 years. “They give you all sorts of hugs! It’s wonderful.”
Carrollton Elementary School is part of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), one of fifteen school districts in the nation participating in the Breakfast in the Classroom initiative, a partnership between the Food Research and Action Center, the National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation, the National Education Association Health Information Network, and the School Nutrition Foundation.
Research has shown that providing breakfast at school is essential – too many children arrive at school hungry, having had no breakfast at home. When their stomachs are empty, their attention spans shorten, their energy levels plummet, their productivity wanes, and their learning suffers. But when students are able to eat the most important meal of the day, they have sharper memory, improved focus and behavior, and higher scores on tests.
“When you feed the body, you feed the mind,” says Carrollton Elementary Principal Brian Gallbraith.
The federally-funded School Breakfast Program was designed to provide disadvantaged students with a nutritious breakfast, but less than half of children who are eligible for the free or reduced-cost breakfast were actually eating it.
That’s because school breakfast programs typically require children to eat in the cafeteria before school, apart from their peers. A lot of the children feel singled out and self-conscious -- they’re worried about being labeled as “low income.”
Timing is another deterrent. Many school breakfast programs take place before the start of the school day, and if the bus is late or the carpool gets caught in traffic, the opportunity for breakfast is missed.
Breakfast in the Classroom removes those barriers. First, it’s available to everyone – no matter their income level. Second, it’s eaten after the opening bell when students are seated at their desks. This makes it possible for all children in the class to participate – even those running a little late will still have time to take advantage of the “grab and go” bags. They eat their breakfasts while the teacher takes attendance, collects homework or teaches a short lesson plan.
Michelle Charity says her third graders at Carrollton Elementary are more productive and less listless now that they are all eating a nutritious meal at the start of the day.
“They’re ready for the day, and they can concentrate all morning because they’re not watching the clock and waiting for lunch,” she says. “It gets their mind active and fuels it for learning.”
Eight-year-old Emani Nichols agrees. “I love having breakfast in the classroom,” she says. “It gives my brain enough energy for thinking.”
This week happens to be National School Breakfast Week – a time when teachers, parents, students and staff come together to celebrate the importance of the most important meal of the day. Join the party by checking out NEA HIN’s resources and use our hashtag #lovebreakfast.
Have we got news for you! Not only is National School Breakfast Week coming up on March 4-8, but we have lots of great resources to help make your March all about breakfast:
- Check out our School Breakfast Week webpage – We have put together a list of materials and information so that you can find what you need to know about the importance of school breakfast.
- Included is a NEW report from Share Our Strength: “Ending Child Hunger: A Social Impact Analysis” that finds federal programs like school breakfast are important in the fight to end childhood hunger. Check out the report and infographic!
- Use our resource “Start School with Breakfast”, to help increase school breakfast participation in your school!
- Check out what books NEA Executive Committee Member Princess Moss likes to read to students over breakfast.
- Find out what others are saying about school breakfast – NEA HIN has been able to implement a Breakfast in the Classroom program in 12 states and 13 school districts to help connect more students to the morning meal. Learn what our partners have to say about the importance of breakfast!
- Denver, CO loves breakfast! Thanks to our partners at the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, 19 Denver Public Schools are now implementing breakfast in the classroom!
- Kansas City, KS knows breakfast in the classroom makes all students feel equal and reduces stigma. Thanks to the National Education Association of Kansas City, Kansas (NEA KCK) 13 Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools are now serving up breakfast in the classroom!
- Jefferson County, KY is working together with ALL school employees to ensure breakfast in the classroom is a success! We are thrilled to be working with our partners at the Jefferson County Teachers Association to implement breakfast in the classroom at 19 Jefferson County Public Schools!
- Des Moines, IA knows that many students are not able to eat at home. Educators are united under a shared goal to make sure students get the nutrition they need to be successful! Breakfast in the classroom is now being implemented in 12 schools in the district. We love working with our partners at the Des Moines Education Association to spread breakfast in the classroom throughout the district.
- Knox County, TN understands that hungry students cannot learn. Together with the Knox County Education Association and the school district, we rolled out breakfast in the classroom in 17 schools in the district!
- Guilford County, NC knows that it takes a village to feed a hungry child. They are working with community and school partners in their district to help feed breakfast in the classroom to hungry students in 12 Guilford County public schools.
- Prince George's County, MD loves breakfast in the classroom! Check out our visit to Carrollton Elementary to see the program in action!
Together, NEA HIN and our partners are making a difference to end hunger by increasing school breakfast participation. Let us know your plans for National School Breakfast Week by commenting on our Facebook and Twitter page. Don't forget to use our hashtag #lovebreakfast.
|A cafeteria worker passes out breakfasts to students in easy to carry bags that they can take to their classroom.|
It’s hard to imagine an Elementary school being quiet and orderly, especially in the morning. However, at Carrollton Elementary in Prince George’s (P.G.) County, Maryland the students know the morning routine. Around 7:00am, students are dropped off by cars and buses and file into the cafeteria without the slightest hint of confusion or commotion. Students wait quietly in the cafeteria for their teachers, and in an orderly manner grab their bagged breakfasts from the friendly cafeteria staff, before heading directly to their classroom. Although this is daily life at Carrollton, I felt like I was witnessing pure magic.
Carrollton Elementary is one of 21 schools in P.G. County that received funding from the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom (PBIC) to implement Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC). The school has an enrollment of around 600 students, with the majority of them qualifying for a free or reduce-priced meal. Since the BIC program was implemented in 2011, average daily participation in the school breakfast program has increased exponentially. In 2010, Carrollton was feeding around 100 students school breakfast, but after receiving a BIC grant, they are now feeding over 500 students breakfast daily. The success of the BIC program at Carrollton is extraordinary, but it is also not completely surprising. After spending a morning at the school observing the program, I realized that the key component to their successful BIC program was the teamwork and collaboration between the school staff. The principal, food service staff, teachers and custodians are all committed to working together to ensure that no student starts the day on an empty stomach. They are all united by a common goal, to make sure students are ready to learn and to work together to achieve that goal.
Prince George’s County Public Schools released a press release this week announcing that Carrollton Elementary will be highlighted in a video about breakfast in the classroom. Stay tuned for more information about that video and check out the rest of the photos from my visit to Carrollton Elementary on NEA HIN’s Facebook page.
If you would like to learn more about the benefits of school breakfast, new ways to increase school breakfast participation, useful tools for advocates and success stories from other districts check out our Start School with Breakfast Guide.
School Breakfast is an underutilized strategy for making sure that children in America have access to the nutrition they need to live healthy lives. By taking initiative to increase School Breakfast Program participation, educators can help to ensure the program's full potential to impact child hunger can be reached. To learn more about what you can do to end child hunger check out Education Week and the most recent article I wrote in their Transforming Learning Blog.
NEA HIN is taking a stand against child hunger. Join us and spread the word that no student should start the school day with an empty stomach. Message me on Facebook or Twitter if you would like to find out more ways that you can get involved in the fight against child hunger.
Teachers know that many of their students avoid the cafeteria during breakfast because they do not want to be labeled as “low income.” However, teachers and school staff have seen that when breakfast in the classroom is served to ALL students instead of in the lunchroom, kids don't feel embarrassed about eating among their peers. For a high-need school district such as Kansas City, KS (KCK) Public Schools teachers and school staff know their students are hungry and with more than 11,000 kids or 26 percent of students who qualify for the federally-funded school breakfast programs, they noticed that many of them were not eating breakfast. However, thanks to a breakfast in the classroom program in partnership with the NEA Health Information Network, students at 13 KCK Public Schools can now enjoy the morning meal free of charge.
Patricia Hodison, President of the National Education Association of Kansas City, Kansas (NEA KCK) has been a champion of this program from the beginning. She has made it her mission to ensure that more students have an opportunity to enjoy the most important meal of the day and has been working with the district and NEA KCK members to make sure that the program was implemented correctly.
Over the summer Patricia helped to organize a training at Wyandotte Public Library that brought custodians, teachers, education support professionals and food service workers together to be trained on breakfast in the classroom. At the training some teachers from Wyandotte High School showed a video that their students created about the importance of breakfast. The video is awesome and really conveyed to all of the staff at the training how much students wanted and needed the BIC program.
On October 30, the KCK School District hosted a BIC event at Central Middle School to see the program in action. Unfortunately, we could not make the event but we asked Patricia to give us a recap of all the fun that we missed.
1. Can you paint a brief picture of the BIC media event at Central Middle School?
Teacher representatives at Central [Middle School] have been leaders in BIC from the start. They were excited and met with their principal to explain the program to her. So together they put together a cool presentation for the media event starting with an enthusiastic breakfast cheer by their cheerleaders as students entered that morning.
The nutritional service workers already had tubs loaded with milk and breakfast ready to go. Students came in to transport the tubs to each classroom seamlessly. As we walked down the hall teachers were greeting students and you could see kids getting settled in their rooms and picking up their breakfast to chat with classmates and their teachers.
2. What feedback did you hear from the students and school staff about the BIC program?
The kids like it. They like getting to eat breakfast and they love having time to talk to their friends and teacher in the morning. They also love being chosen to deliver the breakfasts and return extras to the cafeteria each day.
Initially, there were a few teachers that were unsure of how this would work, but they are some of the strongest advocates now. Teachers still have their time to prep for class while the kids deliver the meals. Then they get a chance to interact with students without a strict focus on achieving an instructional goal, but just learn who their students are and let their students identify with them as a person.
3. Why did NEA-KCK want to be involved in bringing the BIC program to Kansas City Kansas Public Schools?
Our members see kids come to school hungry every day or snacking on junk food to get through the morning. Many even keep a ‘snack stash’ for students in case a student needs something before lunch. We believed that BIC would ensure everyone ate a healthy meal to start the day, which was most important, but also that it would impact the classroom positively. As we reach out to connect with parents and the community we wanted to be able to tell them that we helped bring this great program to their kids.
4. Now tell us about yourself! Growing up what was your favorite breakfast food?
I always loved a bowl of cereal with milk for breakfast. Captain Crunch and Lucky Charms were my favorites. Now that I eat cereal for breakfast with my own son I have moved on to ‘grown-up’ cereals like raisin bran and cheerios, but still have a bowl of Captain Crunch occasionally!
At the BIC training in Kansas City, KS a group of Educators work together on a group activity.
Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools in Kansas City, KS is one of 10 school districts chosen to receive funding from the Walmart Foundation to increase the number of students participating in the school breakfast program. Breakfast has many benefits and students who participate in school breakfast show improved attendance, behavior, and academic performance as well as decreased tardiness.
NEA KCK and the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) have been valued partners in the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom program. To learn more about NEA KCK and KNEA visit http://www.knea.org/.
To learn more about the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom visit www.breakfastintheclassroom.org.
As I reflect on 2012, I am amazed by how NEA members, working with our NEA HIN partners, have taken remarkable action to improve the health and safety of students and educators. Here are just a few of this year’s accomplishments:
- NEA members helped thousands of students from being hungry. More than 1,000 NEA members—teachers and ESP—participated in the NEA HIN co-sponsored Breakfast in the Classroom program in eight states, helping feed more than 41,000 hungry students in high-need schools. These are students who otherwise would not have breakfast that morning.
- With guidance from NEA members and allergy experts, NEA HIN worked with the USDA to produce the (first-ever) booklet on food allergies. This booklet identifies the role that every member of the school community plays in keeping kids safe. This information can be life-saving, and it is now online and available to every one of the nearly 99,000 public schools in nation.
- Recognizing the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy, NEA affiliates and members sent thousands of dollars in donations to the NEA HIN Disaster Relief Fund. Donations continue to come in and will provide needed supports to NEA members and their school communities. If you wish to donate, please make your tax-exempt contribution here.
- Over 1,300 NEA members and other educators across the country took NEA HIN training to advance health and safety in their schools. Topics covered school safety, food allergies in schools, healthy eating, managing stress, and implementing breakfast in the classroom.
This year, NEA HIN also completed an analysis of our previous year’s work to improve indoor environmental quality. We learned that NEA members who took NEA HIN training had used NEA HIN materials to train their colleagues. Their actions more than doubled our original reach, and today 5,000 NEA members are informed and are taking action for healthier schools.
While there is much more to do, we are grateful for every one of the NEA HIN partners who helped in this work—and especially for the thousands of NEA members who acted to help students succeed and fellow educators thrive.
In this season of gift-giving, NEA HIN appreciates the greatest gift: the caring, dedication, and professionalism of NEA members.
November 11-17 is American Education Week (AEW) – a yearly event that celebrates public education and honors individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. The weeklong celebration features a special observance each day, a call to action to teachers and administrators to invite aspiring educators, community leaders, parents and friends into their classrooms, as well as an opportunity to win $5,000 in grant awards.
AEW was established in 1919 by the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Legion during a time when over 25% of the population was illiterate and 9% were physically unfit. Although AEW was originally created as a way to generate public support for education after World War I, it is still relevant today as a way to connect education and health and show how schools can play an important role in tackling health issues affecting young people.
At the National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN) our mission is to improve the health and safety of the school community. We empower NEA members to confront the biggest challenges facing students today; including childhood hunger. In 2010, USDA released a report stating that 1 out of every 5 children in the United States—16.2 million children—lived in a household that struggled to afford enough food for all members of the family. For many of these children, the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program supply much of the food they eat during the week. However, due to often unrecognized barriers, less than half of low-income children who are eligible for free or reduced priced school breakfast are participating in the program. We know from NEA members that millions of children are missing out on breakfast and that missing breakfast has negative consequences on their health and academic performance.
Share Our Strength has been a valued partner in NEA HIN’s efforts to eliminate childhood hunger. In 2010 our organizations developed the Start School With Breakfast Guide to help educators and community members increase student participation in the School Breakfast Program. The guide is available to order or download.
Share Our Strength has also been a resource to many of NEA’s local associations as they work collaboratively with their school districts to address the issue of childhood hunger. This year, Share Our Strength announced that they will be expanding their No Kid Hungry Allies program and are looking for additional organizations to join the fight to end childhood hunger. Being a No Kid Hungry Ally holds several benefits including access to financial resources, capacity building, and connecting to a network of peers to share best practices. For more information, go to http://nokidhungry.org/allies.
At NEA HIN, we hope that you take time this week to celebrate public education and educators and think about the role schools can play in tackling the many health problems – including hunger– facing American children and communities. Hunger is a solvable problem and together we can ALL make a difference. Let us know how you plan on celebrating AEW by commenting on our Facebook and Twitter page. We would love to hear from you!
Educators know that many of their students are not able to eat breakfast at home. Whether students come from a family struggling to put food on the table, have parents who work two jobs, or are rushed in the morning to get to school, too many children miss the morning meal.
Greg Harris, Executive Director of the Des Moines Education Association (DMEA), points out that students who do not have a healthy nutritious breakfast are at an “academic disadvantage;” they have more difficulty focusing in class and learning. Greg has been a champion for the NEA HIN sponsored Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program. He helped raise awareness to the issue of hunger in Des Moines Public Schools by organizing a BIC training that prepared educators to implement the program.
The BIC training—on August 9— involved all stakeholders in the school building. Teachers, custodians, principals and school staff sat down, worked together, and decided how BIC would be implemented in their schools.
A group of educators discuss BIC at the training in August
Since August, the education team went into action! Most importantly BIC has been implemented in 12 schools in the district—reaching more than 4,000 students.
On October 25, BIC supporters hosted a public event at Garton Elementary. DMEA Executive Director Greg Harris spoke along with Interim Superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools Tom Ahart, and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. To view a slide show of photos from the event click here.
We asked Greg Harris and DMEA President Andrew Rasmussen, leaders in the BIC effort, to give us the “skinny” on what we missed.
1. Tell us what you saw when you visited Garton Elementary. Did you talk to any of the students, and if so what did they say about BIC?
GH: [When I arrived at the school] the cafeteria staff was working to get everything set up for the classrooms. Garton [Elementary] uses the hot and cold food carts so the cafeteria staff was lining [the food carts] up in the hallway. The cafeteria staff was very energetic and friendly. I visited the 5th grade classroom of Mrs. Wells. She was standing by a table that was set up in the classroom with the BIC food items. When the students arrived to the classroom they were welcomed by their teacher as they picked up a bag that contained the food items. The students then went to their seats.
AR: The students I talked to said they liked the BIC program and some of the students said they enjoyed talking to their friends [over breakfast].
2. Tell us why DMEA wanted to be involved in bringing BIC to Des Moines Public Schools?
GH: After we heard from the Iowa State Education Association that NEA was sponsoring a BIC program, I thought it would be a good way for us to reach out to children and staff and help feed kids who come to school hungry. There was some resistance from some teachers at first, but that has changed. One teacher who had reservations about the program served as one of the representative for her school and was involved in the [BIC] training.
AR: Working in an urban school district we know how important it is to deal with the effects of childhood poverty which has been increasing. This [program] gives us a chance to be involved on the forefront.
3. Growing up what was your favorite breakfast food?
GH: I attended Harris Elementary in the Pulaski County School District located in North Little Rock, Arkansas. I can remember eating breakfast at school. We had the Hostess Suzy Q’s and milk. My favorite breakfast food is Oatmeal with brown sugar, raisins and cream.
AR: Blueberry Muffins
Two students at Garton Elementary School enjoy breakfast in the classroom!
Des Moines Public Schools in Des Moines, IA is one of 10 schools districts chosen to receive funding from the Walmart Foundation in a grant to increase the number of students participating in the school breakfast program. Breakfast has many benefits, and studies conclude that students who eat school breakfast increase their math and reading scores, as well as improve their speed and memory in cognitive tests.
DMEA and the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) have been valued partners in the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom program. To learn more about DMEA and ISEA visit http://www.isea.org/home/546.htm. To learn more about the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom visit www.breakfastintheclassroom.org.
What does a teacher say about students eating breakfast in her classroom? "Hungry students can't learn," says Sherry Morgan President of the Knox County Education Association in Tennessee. That's why educators in Knox County are now serving breakfast to students every school morning through the Breakfast in the Classroom program, supported by NEA HIN.
You may remember this article about the breakfast in the classroom training that happened in Knoxville, TN on July 25. The Knox County Education Association (KCEA) invited teachers from the district to learn about breakfast in the classroom (BIC) and to provide valuable feedback and comments to the school district. At the training many teachers expressed their enthusiasm for the program, "I just think it's going to play nicely that we're all doing the same thing and it just fits the routine of the day," said an Elementary teacher. "I like the idea of knowing who's eating and that we've all come together to eat and everybody is the same. It's that equality."
Since the training, the program has been implemented in 17 schools in the district. Recently, a Breakfast in the Classroom media event happened on October 15 at Mooreland Heights Elementary School to celebrate the implementation of BIC. We were so bummed to have missed the event but were able to catch up with KCEA President Sherry Morgan to fill us in on the details!
1. Can you paint a brief picture of the day of the event? What did you see when you visited Mooreland Heights Elementary? Did you talk to any students about BIC?
SM: In a brief picture, [when I visited the classroom] the students were working quietly on a writing assignment. They knew the routine for picking up their breakfast. It did not take away from instructional time. In my speech [to the school], I asked the students if they liked eating breakfast with their teachers, and I got a resounding YES!
2. What did you hear from the students and school staff about BIC?
SM: The students liked eating with their teachers and were not hungry before starting their school work. [The staff noticed that] the students were calmer too!
3. Why did KCEA want to be involved in bringing BIC to Knox County Schools?
SM: KCEA wanted to be involved in the BIC program because BIC helps students academically and physically. Many times, school provides the only meals students receive, and there is documented proof that hungry children are not able to learn.
4. Growing up what was your favorite breakfast food?
SM: Growing up on a farm in Tennessee, my favorite breakfast was scrambled eggs, country ham and homemade biscuits with homemade strawberry jam with milk. We raised or grew everything we ate.
Knox County Schools in Knoxville, TN is one of 10 school districts chosen to receive grant funding from the Walmart Foundation to increase the number of students participating in the school breakfast program. By bringing breakfast into the classroom, studies have shown that student participation in the school breakfast program increases exponentially.
KCEA and the Tennessee Education Association have been valued partners in the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom program. To learn more about KCEA visit http://kceaintouch.org/KCEA/ and to learn more about TEA visit http://www.teateachers.org/.
For information about the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom visit www.breakfastintheclassroom.org.
At the BIC Media Event on Oct. 15 students got to jam with local band Spencer's Own!
Tough economic times often mean shrinking budgets for extracurricular school activities, leading many schools to turn to selling junk foods and beverages to raise money (e.g. vending machines, cookie sales, fast food sandwiches at lunchtime, etc). But what is the real cost of these seemingly harmless money-makers?
Over the past thirty years, the rate of childhood obesity has more than tripled. And today, more than 23 million children and adolescents in the United States—nearly one in three young people—are either obese or overweight. If this trend continues, the current generation of young people could be the first in U.S. history to live sicker and die younger than their parents’ generation.
What is causing the drastic rise in childhood obesity in the United States? One reason is the fact that kids are eating more unhealthy processed food like chips and candy and drinking more sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, energy drinks and sports drinks. Selling junk foods and beverages in schools is also in direct opposition to school health curriculum. Think about it, what does it say to a student who learns about healthy eating during class, then heads over to the hallway vending machine, only to see if stocked with fatty, salty foods and sugary beverages?
And all this junk isn’t just affecting kids’ waistlines. Numerous studies show there is a strong connection between the quality of a child’s diet and their academic performance and achievement. Given the connection between poor diet, student health, and academic success, doesn’t it make sense that schools should get out of the junk food business?
School vending and food-based fundraising are easy ways raise money, and school administrators may worry that stocking healthier options will turn off students and result in less revenue for school programs. But, research and success stories are showing that switching to healthier snack and beverage offerings doesn’t have to mean less revenue.
Our new publication summarizes the research, including the following findings:
- Selling healthier snack foods does not necessarily result in revenue loss
- Selling healthier snacks and beverages often leads to greater participation in the National School Lunch Program
- In some cases, revenue from the sale of snack foods and beverages increases after switching to healthier options.
Interested in making changes at your school? NEA HIN also has a policy brief to help states and school districts create stronger, more comprehensive policies for snack foods and beverages Bag the Junk: Improving Competitive Food Policy to Create Healthier, Smarter School Environments, which is available for free.
We also invite you to check out examples of schools and school districts that have removed junk foods and beverages and not lost revenue:
I grew up in a different world….a world where all of our food was grown, processed, and eaten on our farm. We planted a quarter-acre garden that produced food from May until October and we raised our own beef, pork and chicken, too. The approach of Food Day reminds me of my relationship to food and how it was formed.
Farming was hard work, but this work came with great rewards. The farm on which I was born was a working dairy requiring major labor from my father, my brothers and me for two hours every morning and evening. Summer work added in the planting and harvesting of crops to feed our dairy and beef cattle and hogs. The remainder of the day was spent assisting my Mom with planting, picking and processing vegetables. My mom, with assistance from several aunts, would can and freeze hundreds and hundreds of quarts of vegetables….lasting our family of eight through the winter until the next summer’s garden produce arrived.
Working so hard for our food meant hyper-fresh food and also that nothing was to go to waste. We daily drank two gallons of milk from the dairy. The cream, skimmed from the top of each gallon, was used in coffee, on fresh pies, in making fresh-churned ice cream weekly, and for cooking.
Lunch and dinner came straight from the garden: fresh peas, beans, corn, asparagus, potatoes, onions, often picked just minutes before cooking (my father did not like to eat corn that was more than 30 minutes from the stalk). I can still taste tomatoes warm from the mid-day sun and corn so fresh that the kernels melted in your mouth.
Our house was on four-acres of the 300 acre farm. These four acres also housed my grandfather’s fruit orchard. Fresh apples, pears and peaches were routinely picked from this area and were included in our daily diet. We also had a mill on the farm that we used to grind corn and wheat into feed for the dairy cows and hogs and fresh flour for home use. EVERY meal included fresh biscuits, fresh rolls or fresh loaf bread using this flour.
These early food experiences formed my present daily habits for cooking and food consumption. I have never purchased frozen vegetables, or a store-made cake or pie. I include a fresh salad in my daily diet. I often make breads from scratch, and I always try to eat foods that are the least processed and as close to the earth as possible. Just last weekend, I made fresh churned ice cream for 20 guests: one gallon of fresh peach and one gallon of chocolate. It was pretty darned good, too!
I don’t know if these food habits will increase my life span….but they certainly increase my daily nutrition and enjoyment of food. My hope is that all Americans, regardless of where they grew up, can enjoy a healthy relationship with food by learning where their food comes from and how it’s grown. That’s why I am thrilled that NEA Health Information Network is participating in Food Day 2012 by hosting an event at the National Education Association (NEA) in Washington, DC. Hopefully this event helps NEA staff and neighboring office workers experience a small taste of what it’s like to eat straight from the farm.
On Sunday, October 21 Senator George McGovern passed away at the age of 90 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota surrounded by family and life-long friends. He will be remembered by his legacy as one of the prominent leaders of the anti-hunger movement and one of the architects of the landmark legislation in 1977 that largely created today’s SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) program. Senator McGovern was passionate about the issue of hunger in the United States and believed that the U.S. government had a moral responsibility to ensure that all people including low-income families, women and children had access to affordable and nutritious food.
Before becoming a U.S. Senator from South Dakota, McGovern served in the Kennedy administration as Director of the U.N. Food for Peace Program. After his lengthy career in the Senate he also served as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization during the Clinton administration and later served as the U.N.'s international emissary on hunger.
Despite his many prominent positions and accolades Senator McGovern never forgot about his humble roots and was a true champion of social justice issues. At the NEA Health Information Network, we are saddened to hear of Senator McGovern’s passing, but we will continue to celebrate his life and accomplishments as well as his fight to end hunger in the United States.
What better way to start the school day, or any day for that matter, than with a healthy and nutritious breakfast?! At NEA HIN we are excited to announce that we will be working with the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom in 10 more school districts across the country to help guarantee that all students have access to the most important meal of the day…breakfast!
The districts include: Charleston County School District, S.C.; Denver Public Schools, Colo.; Des Moines Public Schools, Iowa; Elgin School District U-46, Ill.; Guilford County Schools, Greensboro, N.C.; Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville, Ky.; Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, Kan.; Knox County Schools, Knoxville, Tenn.; and Pinellas County Schools, Largo, Fla. A tenth district will be announced soon.
By working with NEA state and local leaders, we are addressing the issue of childhood hunger and ensuring that students have the nutrients and energy needed to learn. Last year, we worked in five high-needs school districts to help bring breakfast into the classroom. Those districts included: Dallas Independent School District, Texas; Little Rock School District, Ark.; Memphis City Schools, Tenn.; Orange County Public Schools, Fla. (including Orlando); and Prince George's County Public Schools, Md.
With the support of NEA leaders on the ground, we were able to provide breakfast to over 10,000 additional students daily. Here is what Cathy Koehler, President of the Little Rock Education Association had to say about the impact of the program on her district:
Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) has provided Little Rock School District (LRSD) an opportunity to address the diversity of students in the district in a fair and equitable manner. All students regardless of their socio-economic status receive breakfast at no cost at fourteen elementary schools and two early childhood centers. Upon completion of the first full year of BIC implementation teachers have observed an increase in student attentiveness to learning in the morning, there have been less behavioral distractions resulting in student discipline measures, and a decrease in habitual student tardies. BIC afforded LRSD a tool to help address a student need and help students become engaged, successful learners.
NEA members know what the faces of hunger look like and how breakfast is important to all of us. We look forward to feeding additional students this year, and to working with NEA members on the issue of childhood hunger. Jerry Newberry, Executive Director of NEA HIN had this to say about the program:
Educators know that eating breakfast at school helps students perform better. They see students in their classes coming to school hungry, and often spend money out of their own pockets to buy food for students who can’t purchase breakfast. The NEA Health Information Network works across the U.S .with educators to advocate for Breakfast in the Classroom as a way to increase school breakfast participation and improve students’ academic achievement and health. From the five districts NEA HIN worked in last year, we have seen the increase in participation of students in the school breakfast program and the resulting positive outcomes in their classrooms.
For more information about the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom please click here.
For more information about our national media press release please click here.
Yesterday, I read a special six-page report from the Washington Post on Food Security. Actually, I really see the problem as one of food insecurity in the United States. Food insecurity is a term defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as meaning the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, or the ability to acquire such food. In plain English, this translates to not knowing where your next meal (hopefully a nutritious one) is going to come from. The issue of food insecurity and the hunger that often accompanies it is one of the most troubling aspects of life for many people in our country. That is why food insecurity and hunger are issues that NEA HIN has taken very seriously in our various programs.
USDA monitors the extent and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households through an annual, nationally representative survey. A 2010 report by USDA showed that almost 49 million Americans lived in food insecure households. Of that number, 32.6 million are adults and 16.2 million are children. That number is staggering and has increased over the past few years for a variety of reasons, one of the most obvious being the economy.
In a 2011 report by Feeding America, a national anti-hunger organization, it was reported that households with higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (20.2 percent), especially households with children headed by single women (35.1 percent) or single men (25.4 percent), Black non-Hispanic households (25.1 percent) and Hispanic households (26.2 percent).
When I talk to anyone about the work we do at NEA HIN, and why we are involved in combating hunger, I like to say that we believe hunger is a social and moral problem that can be solved. We know that every day NEA members face the hard realities of hungry students in their classrooms and schools and that they truly know the effects of hunger on learning and health.
Research compiled by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) shows that children who experience hunger are more likely to be hyperactive, absent and tardy, have behavioral and attention problems, have lower math scores, are more likely to need to repeat a grade, and are more likely to have received special education services or received mental health counseling.
However, as I said before, hunger is a solvable problem—at least for children in our schools. One of the ways in which NEA HIN has gotten involved in fighting childhood hunger is through helping schools to connect more students to federal meal programs such as the National School Lunch Program, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and the School Breakfast Program.
According to what research shows, not every student is able to take advantage of all the federal meal programs for a variety of reasons. Specifically, in the case of the school breakfast program, for every 100 children receiving free and reduced price lunch, only 48.2 received free and reduced price breakfast. What that means is that less than half of all students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch are eating breakfast! Last time I checked, breakfast only happened to be the most important meal of the day—so the School Breakfast Program seemed to be the first place to start to connect more students to the food they need to learn and be healthy.
In 2010, NEA HIN along with the Food Research and Action Center, National Association of Elementary Principals Foundation, and School Nutrition Foundation came together to form Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom (PBIC). Through a grant from the Walmart Foundation, PBIC has been able to go into five different high-needs school districts across the country and help over 83 schools bring breakfast into the classroom as a way to fight childhood hunger. During the program’s first year, we have been able to help increase breakfast consumption in these five districts by an additional 10,000 students daily.
NEA HIN is committed to working in schools and with NEA members, federal agencies, associations, non-profits, foundations and corporations from across the country to confront problems connected to hunger and nutrition. We envision a world in which all communities will have access to healthy, affordable food and where children who are hungry today will not go hungry tomorrow.
Since the beginning, NEA HIN has worked closely with partners in the public and private sectors to help create healthier, safer schools. In celebration of our 25th anniversary, we are highlighting some of the partners who are joining us in the Hall of Health on June 30-July 2.
With one in five children in the United States experiencing hunger, NEA HIN is proud to partner with Share Our Strength a national nonprofit that working to end child hunger in America through partnerships with public officials, community and faith-based organizations, and private-sector leaders at the state and city level. One such partnership is Start School with Breakfast a guide to help schools expand participation in their breakfast program. Share Our Strength will be in booth 401 in the Hall of Health. Stop by and find out what you can do to make sure that no child starts the school day hungry or goes to sleep at night without a healthy meal.
Last week the NEA Health Information Network's Lisa Creighton represented NEA HIN at the 2012 NEA Education Support Professionals (ESP) Conference. I sat down with Lisa upon her return to find out more about her experience.
Lisa, tell us about the session you presented at the ESP Conference.
The session was called Healthy Kids Learn Better: How and Why to Improve School Food. I started by talking about the obesity epidemic which is really a big part of the impetus for healthier school food. Then we looked at the Federal guidelines for school meal programs and some of the changes coming because of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act . ESPs need to know this information, but it does not tell them what they can do, so we covered local strategies. These included Farm to School , the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program , school gardens, and Breakfast in the Classroom. This last one is really about increasing participation in the program as well as improving quality.
Your focus was on healthy eating. Can you share some of our member's experiences?
Sure. One custodian really stood out. He was a "food service custodian" working just in the food service area. His school has breakfast in the classroom and he was really positive about it. He said it did not add to his work, just changed it. So instead of cleaning the cafeteria after breakfast, he goes around the building collecting the trash from each classroom. Other participants were really interested in what he was saying.
Another member from New Jersey talked about how her district was trying to make healthier food available, particularly through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
You were also exhibiting. What NEA HIN resource did the attendees get most excited about?
People had lots to say about our shingles book. Many members knew someone who had experienced shingles so they wanted to know how they could reduce their risk. Other popular resources were Start School with Breakfast , Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives , and Tools for Schools. Our lip balm was also very popular because the air in the hotel was so dry.
Were you able to attend any other workshops?
I went to the session on Farm to School Programs presented by the National Farm to School Network and the Massachusetts Teachers Association. People were really excited. A few of the attendees talked about the farmer's markets at their schools. Others were interested in starting up new programs and school gardens.
Did you meet any celebrities?
Yes, I met the Lorax who was there to promote Read Across America. He was quiet, but friendly. And much shorter in person.
Is there anything you want to add?
Thank you to NEA's ESP Quality Department for the invitation to present and exhibit. There were so may first time attendees who were all so excited. It's a great conference.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Check out NEA HIN’s ‘School Breakfast Week’ blog series all week long. We will feature two of our partner organizations talking about the importance of breakfast as part of a healthy lifestyle. As always, let us know what you are doing to promote breakfast in your school or community, and have a healthy and happy School Breakfast Week!
How time flies! It seems School Breakfast Week is almost over and I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing from our various partners and affiliates who are making a difference by providing nutritious breakfasts at their schools.
Whether you’re a principal, teacher, custodian, food service worker, school bus driver, school nurse, or a school support employee, everyone plays an important roles in ensuring that students thrive academically, emotionally and physically.
School employees often witness the heavy toll of hunger and poverty on children, as more than 1 in 7 Americans receive the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP - formerly known as The Food Stamp Program). According to FRAC, that number equates to approximately 46.5 million people who participated in SNAP (as of December 2011).
As I wrote about in my blog earlier this week, hungry, malnourished children do not learn as well as their peers. In contrast, students who are well-nourished have fewer behavioral and attendance problems, and perform better on tests.
At NEA HIN, we know NEA members care deeply about the health and well-being of students and are committed to ensuring they have the nutrition they need to learn, grow and succeed. They understand the connection between hunger and academic achievement; realize the barriers for students getting to school early, and the stigma for low-income children eating free or reduced-price breakfast in the traditional cafeteria setting.
Data has shown that when breakfast is brought from the cafeteria and into the classroom, participation in the School Breakfast Program can reach optimal levels. So whether you are the ones preparing breakfast, helping to serve breakfast, cleaning-up after breakfast has been eaten, or advocating on behalf of hungry children, YOU play an important role in making sure healthy, nutritious food gets to students.
School employees are champions for breakfast and work tirelessly to ensure students live happy and healthy lives! During School Breakfast Week we honor their service and dedication to student health.
For more information on NEA HIN’s resources and programs as they relate to hunger check out the following:
- Start School with Breakfast: A Guide to Increasing School Breakfast Participation – This publication from the NEA Health Information Network and Share Our Strength provides information about the benefits of school breakfast, new ways to increase school breakfast participation, useful tools for advocates and success stories from other districts.
- Breakfast in the Classroom – For NEA members working in districts with high rates of free and reduced price students, consider advocating for Breakfast in the Classroom, which is proven to increase participation in the School Breakfast Program.
For more information on NEA HIN’s partner organizations:
- Action for Healthy Kids is releasing its school grant program for the 2012-2013 school year where over 500 schools will be awarded with grants that include building effective alternative breakfast programs. Applications are due May 5, 2012.
Breakfast in the Classroom - Mission Possible (Providing Brain Nourishment for a Healthy Academic Start to the Day)
Check out NEA HIN’s ‘School Breakfast Week’ blog series all week long. We will feature two of our partner organizations talking about the importance of breakfast as part of a healthy lifestyle. As always, let us know what you are doing to promote breakfast in your school or community, and have a healthy and happy School Breakfast Week!
Check out NEA HIN’s ‘School Breakfast Week’ blog series all week long. We will feature two of our partner organizations talking about the importance of breakfast as part of a healthy lifestyle. As always, let us know what you are doing to promote breakfast in your school or community, and have a healthy and happy School Breakfast Week!
We had decided 10 years ago that our students were not getting to school on time, nor were they eating a healthy, nourishing breakfast to sustain them through a rigorous 6 hours of academic instruction.
The cafeteria workers at the end of the day set up breakfast for the next morning before they leave. Upon arriving at work they distribute the breakfasts in the classrooms by 8:15, in big freezer cooler bags with a sign-in sheet daily. Everything a teacher needs is in that box (napkins, spoons, forks, fruit, juice, milk and the daily breakfast entrée.)
Students are brought in from playground at 8:58 and start breakfast immediately. Most teachers even our Kindergarten teachers have a set routine where all children, in an orderly manner, go get their breakfast items and return to their seats. They either mark off their name with a highlighter that they have chosen at least 3 items (for federal reimbursement money) or the teacher calls their name and they say 3 or more.
By 9:05, I start my announcements, which last about 4-5 minutes as the children are eating and listening to the daily happenings. When I am done the teacher is either reading a book aloud to the class, or has a review assignment on their desk, or a buddy question they must talk about until 9:12/9:14-breakfast is complete and sat outside the classroom door. We furnish each class with a strainer for the children to dispense of their cereal and milk in the classroom sink (to alleviate the weight and strength of the garbage bag.) The garbage bag is tied by a student or teacher depending on the student’s grade level and set outside along with the box of left overs and the sign-in sheet. Cafeteria staff comes by around 9:20 and gathers the boxes. Our custodian gathers the trash soon afterward.
If a student comes in late with no excuse after 9:20, we usually don’t feed them, unless they state they haven’t had breakfast and are hungry. Families know now that in order for students to have breakfast,students need to be on campus by 9:05. We have very few exceptions, but we would never turn away a child that is hungry.
My staff feels that the 15 minutes a day over 180 days of the school year, is worth the academic growth we see through the children being nourished and their brains not being worried about hunger! It is a WIN WIN for everyone!
When the breakfast in the classroom movement first began, the concept of children eating breakfast after the bell in the actual classroom was seen as a new and exciting way to boost breakfast participation. Today, with its undeniable positive effects on young minds and classroom environments, thousands of schools around the country getting on board the breakfast in the classroom train, undoubtedly headed to a school near you.
As the economy continues to recover, millions of families are relying on school meals programs to provide their children with nutritious foods to keep them alert and attentive during the school day. On an average day during the 2010-2011 school year, 9.8 million low-income children ate breakfast, a 3.8 percent rise from the previous school year. But even with breakfast participation continuing to steadily increase, the number of low-income children eating breakfast still lags well behind the number of children eating lunch, with less than half (48.2 percent) of low-income children receiving school lunch also receiving breakfast.
This past month has seen a sharp focus on breakfast in the classroom and its impact on participation. First, a recent breakfast report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) revealed that the areas of the country that have implemented widespread breakfast in the classroom programs have seen the most significant increases in breakfast consumption, with Washington D.C. ranking 1st in school breakfast participation, experiencing a 32 percent increase in the number of kids eating breakfast in the 2010-2011 school year. To celebrate and mark this achievement, I had the pleasure of attending “Breakfast in the Council” where students from Kimbell Elementary, in collaboration with D.C. Hunger Solutions and FRAC, delivered school breakfasts to all Councilmembers and staff throughout the D.C. Council buildings. The students expressed how much they enjoyed eating breakfast in the classroom with their teacher and, on occasion, their principal. Principal Sheila West-Miller expressed how grateful she is for the opportunity to make sure that all of her students are fed. But the train doesn’t stop here.
The annual FRAC/Feeding America Anti-Hunger Conference highlighted the great work being done by organizations across the country. During the School Breakfast: Best Practices for Expanding Participation session moderated by FRAC’s very own Madeleine Levin and Julie Gehrki from the Walmart Foundation panelists shared best practices and the ways in which they are working to expand school breakfast programs in their states.
- In California, through the work of Tia Shimada and the California Food Policy Advocates’ BreakfastFirst Campaign, students across the state from the Bay Area to Los Angeles are eating breakfast for free in the classroom.
- Dinah Frey of Hunger Free Colorado enthusiastically shared the positive impact of their Colorado School Breakfast Challenge which has led to 40 Colorado schools now operating breakfast in the classroom serving 19,000 students, 14,000 of which are low-income.
- In New Mexico, in an effort to improve educational outcomes for all schoolchildren statewide, Governor Susana Martinez signed a bill mandating that all schools where 85% or more of the students qualify for free or reduced priced meals serve and eat breakfast after the bell free of charge.
- Jenny Ramo of New Mexico Appleseed reported that as a result of the mandate, the state is already seeing dramatic increases in breakfast participation and students and teachers alike are enjoying the improved learning environments.
So, if you are looking to improve the overall academic performance of the students in your schools, I agree with what the research tells us; the best way to do so is for students to eat breakfast in the classroom after the bell. For those schools that have already courageously implemented breakfast in the classroom, they can rest assured; their students have now been saved by the bell.
Waterloo Elementary School is a small, rural community school in south-central Wisconsin. Although it has a few prosperous businesses, it could also be described as a bedroom community, with many parents traveling to nearby bigger cities for work each day. It has a population that includes about 25% Hispanic and about 42% low socio-economic status. Waterloo Elementary is in the third year of its breakfast program, and the number of students participating daily has risen from about 116 our first year to about 144 this year, more than half of those are students who qualify for free/reduced meals.
“We had frequent issues of students coming to school without having had breakfast. Often they would be sent to the office with upset stomachs or headaches. That morning parade to the office has since stopped thanks to having the opportunity for breakfast right away in the classrooms,” said Principal Maureen Adams. “Our students arrive at 7:45 AM on the playground, and the first bell rings at 8:00. Some of the teachers pick up the breakfasts (ordered the day before) and have them waiting in the class right when the students enter. Others assign class jobs to help get the breakfasts for those who ordered.”
Breakfasts always include milk and a fruit (some days of the week are fresh fruit, some days juice, and some days applesauce). Other items include cereal, yogurt, cinnamon roll, breakfast pizza, or PBJ “Uncrustables”. Each week has the same five days of menu items, so students know what to expect each morning. Students are unable to order breakfasts unless there is parent permission granted at the start of the year.
In getting the program off the ground, there was much discussion about whether before-school or in-classroom breakfast was the best option. Several factors helped select in-classroom breakfasts: reduced stigma about who is eating and who is not since it is offered in a common place to any who have pre-ordered, great supervision because the classroom teachers are there to help oversee the meal, no additional set-up or clean-up of the cafeteria (allowing it to be used for other events until lunch time).
Adams adds that the program has had challenges. “Staff recognized the need to make sure kids were ready to learn, and nutrition is certainly part of that. They were worried, though, about loss in instructional time for the 15-20 minute breakfast, but have since become very creative. Some classes conduct business during that time (announcements, calendar, permission slips, etc.), others read aloud from chapter books, some provide socialization time. In all, the time ‘lost’ is more redirected, and I think kids are able to makeup for that later because they have more energy and can focus their attention well.”
Michelle, parent of three elementary students, said “I think it’s good that there is an option for parents.” One fourth grade girl said, “It is good. I don’t have to be in such a hurry.” A fourth grade boy added, “It’s delicious and it makes me healthy, plus we don’t have stuff to eat at home.” There are plans to continue to improve the menu and the service delivery in Waterloo’s Breakfast Program, but overall, it seems to be filling a need and making a difference.
Mrs. Adams visiting with students in a classroom during a typical breakfast. Some kids are eating, others are working on homework or a getting-started project for the day.
I vividly remember one morning, before leaving for elementary school, sitting at the kitchen table and staring at a picture of the 1996 U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team on the front of my Wheaties cereal box. In those days, cereal was regarded as the “breakfast of champions” and there was no greater honor than having your name and face end up on the Wheaties box. Every day at school, well, at least most days, I looked forward to learning with a full stomach and an open mind.
How times have changed! It seems now that many people have forgotten how important breakfast is to good health and what the many benefits are to starting the day with a healthy meal. Even worse, there are many families in the U.S. that don’t have access to a healthy breakfast.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a report indicating that 48.8 million people in the U.S. live in food insecure households. Living in a food insecure household means that, at times during the year, these households were uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members. Of that number, 16.2 million are children. This fact shocked me, but I know that many NEA members face this reality with their students every day.
We have heard from NEA Members who often dip into their own pockets to provide hungry children with snacks during the school day. They understand the established relationship between hunger, academic achievement and child development, and are doing everything they can to help. Some of the data on the effects of hunger on student academic achievement include:
- Hungry children have lower math scores and are more likely to have to repeat a grade.
- Children experiencing hunger are more likely to be hyperactive, absent and tardy, in addition to having behavioral and attention problems more often than other children.
- Children with hunger are more likely to have received special education services, or received mental health counseling, than low-income children who do not experience hunger.
I believe that each student should have enough food every day so that she or he can concentrate, learn and succeed. That is why breakfast is so important. By flipping the Wheaties tagline “breakfast of champions” around a little bit, we come up with the role that the partners in our school breakfast program play—they are champions for breakfast! Students who eat breakfast start the day off ready to learn. They get higher scores in math and reading on standardized tests. They have sharper memories, broader vocabularies, and they focus and behave better.
Most school districts participate in the federally-funded School Breakfast Program, but, on average, less than half of the students who are eligible for the free or reduced-price breakfast are eating it. Students often don’t participate due to bus schedules, drop off times, or fear of stigma.
NEA HIN is one of the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom. This program aims to serve universal breakfast in the classroom, rather than in the traditional cafeteria, as a way of increasing the number of children participating in their school’s breakfast program. Schools that provide breakfast in the classroom report decreases in discipline and behavior problems, fewer visits to school nurses and less tardiness; increases in student attentiveness and attendance; and generally improved learning environments.
Providing a healthy breakfast is one of the single most important things we can do for students to support better academic outcomes. In response to the importance of this issue, we created a publication called Start School with Breakfast: A Guide to Increasing School Breakfast Participation. This publication provides information about the benefits of school breakfast, new ways to increase school breakfast participation, useful tools for advocates and success stories from other districts. By using this publication to increase the number of children receiving breakfast in their own districts, NEA members can help alleviate childhood hunger by promoting in-school meals such as those offered through the School Breakfast Program.
Join the breakfast movement! Whether that means advocating for healthy breakfasts to be served at your school, volunteering with your local community food bank, or signing up for the School Nutrition Association’s “School Breakfast - Go for the Gold” challenge—YOU really can make a difference.
Tell us about your favorite breakfast food and become a champion for breakfast!
If you are planning on attending the 2012 NEA ESP Conference next week, we can't wait to see you. NEA HIN is pleased to once again be joining Education Support Professionals from around the country. We are looking forward to seeing many friends from past conferences and meeting new ones. As in the past, we will be in the exhibit area with resources and materials to help ESPs create safe, healthy, great public schools for all.
NEA HIN staff will also be presenting two workshops as part of the Skill-Based Learning Professional Development Track. On Saturday afternoon at 2:45 pm Lisa Creighton will be presenting Healthy Kids Learn Better: Why and How to Improve School Food. Making sure that kids have access to healthy, wholesome foods at school can impact both health and behavior. This highly interactive session will focus on the importance of nutrition for child health, programs to improve access to school meals (such as breakfast in the classroom) and the quality of school food (such as farm-to-school). The session will also cover some of the things being done at the local, state, and federal level to improve school food. The session will focus on the ways that ESPs can help students, while building strong community partnerships.
On Sunday morning at 8:15 am, NEA HIN Executive Director Jerry Newberry will present, School Security Officers:Making a Difference for At-Risk Students. Participants in this session will address the critical role of the school security officer in support of at-risk students. Through discussion and activities, participants will address the needs of at-risk students and discuss the unique challenges of the students they work with. The session will focus on building bridges with families and community resources to support student success.
We hope to see you at the conference and copies of the presentations will be available on our website after the conference.
When people find out that I work in the field of child nutrition, the first response is usually a memory from school lunch. Most recall favorite foods or the ladies in the cafeteria who always knew their name. However, I never hear any stories about school breakfast. Growing up, my dad was the breakfast chef in the house. Across the kitchen counter, we caught up, talked about the day ahead and decided that an egg sandwich with ketchup made in a cast iron skillet was the best breakfast ever.
Having that quiet time before going to school helped set the tone for the day. I now have the opportunity, with a lot of help, to help thousands of children have a similar start to their day. Moving school breakfast into the classroom is a great way to start the day. Students share a meal with their peers and teacher and begin the school day together. Coordinating this dance every morning takes teamwork, commitment and patience. With the support of teachers and all of the school staff, principals, school administrators, parents, the community and child nutrition professionals (truly a village), it works. With the shared goal of helping children achieve, moving breakfast into the classroom can create stronger communities in the classroom, school and beyond.
As I mentioned, I have a lot of help to encourage more schools to move breakfast into the classroom. Working with NEA HIN, and the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom, we are making a difference one classroom at a time. When I have days where nothing is going right, I check out the Beyond Breakfast blog and read through the success stories. It helps put things in perspective. Perhaps the intersection of education and food starts with breakfast in the classroom.
I started my teaching career as an early childhood educator. I taught the little ones, younger than five. Teaching healthy habits such as good nutrition and washing hands was as much a part of our curriculum as social skills (remember to say please and thank you) and academics. So when my own children entered elementary school, I assumed that teaching would go on. But conversations with their teachers led me to realize that they often felt unprepared to teach health. At the elementary school level we ask so much of our teachers. They need to know a how to teach a whole range of content and frankly, health sometimes gets left out due to lack of time, resources, and understanding.
Yet with childhood obesity rates at the highest they have ever been, giving kids the knowledge and the skills they need to lead healthy lives becomes ever more important. Here at NEA HIN, we have been working on a number of initiatives that help teachers and other educators focus on building healthy lives. The most recent of these is Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives. It provides K-3 educators with 31 lessons to teach fundamental nutrition and physical activity concepts. The lessons are aligned with national standards in Math, Science, English/Language Arts, and Social Studies. Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives was developed in partnership with Nestle Healthy Kids Global Program. Classroom teachers tested the lessons, reviewed the materials during the development stage, and provided feedback along the way.
Information on how to get copies of Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives can be found here. I hope you will take a look and use them in your classroom.
Over the past four months the NEA HIN staff have been participating the the NEA Regional Leadership Conferences and the NEA Education Support Professional Conference. As we have traveled around the country, we have heard the most amazing stories of NEA members who are making a difference. Here are just a few of the things we heard about.
- A food service worker who cooks breakfast every morning from scratch
- Teachers who find creative and fun ways to help kids and themselves be active through in-class activity breaks
- Custodians who making cleaning for health a priority
As we launch our new website here at NEA HIN, we will be sharing their stories and and we hope to share yours. Please take the time to visit our site and if you have a success story or know an NEA member making a difference for healthy and safe schools please share it here.