Bolstering Learning With Breakfast

Image: nenetus/freedigitalphotos.net

We hope you had a good breakfast this morning. Many children in America didn’t.

But for every middle and elementary school student at Battle Creek Public Schools, breakfast is a guarantee—one that’s paying off in healthier students, better grades and fewer disciplinary issues.

Breakfast in the Classroom is a unique community partnership created when Kellogg Company, through its Breakfasts for Better Days initiative, and United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region came together with BCPS and Operation Fit. (Operation Fit is a healthy community initiative of Bronson Battle Creek, Battle Creek Community Foundation and the Regional Health Alliance.)

National School Breakfast Week is March 6-10, giving added incentive to highlighting the success of Breakfast in the Classroom.

An estimated 7,500 children in Calhoun County are considered food insecure, meaning they can’t count on adequate, nutritious food from day to day. According to Feeding America, hungry children do poorly in school, have lower academic achievement, and have more social and behavioral issues. Other studies show kids who do not get breakfast have more absences and don’t score as well in math.

Recognizing this need, a group of educational and nutrition organizations began encouraging Breakfast in the Classroom at the national level in 2010. The local partnership brought it to Dudley Elementary during the 2011-12 school year. Teachers quickly noted that their students were better prepared to learn and interact. The program expanded to Valley View and Fremont schools in 2014 with similar results. All elementary and middle schools climbed aboard in 2015.

“United Way helped fund a lead supervisor at each school to help coordinate meals and support teachers,” said Chris Sargent, Interim CEO for UWBCKR. “They work with Chartwells School Dining Services to deliver breakfast meals to each classroom by 8:30 a.m. Just 15 minutes is all it takes to feed a hungry child and get him or her started on the right foot for the school day.”

Teachers set their own routines for their classrooms—sharing breakfast with students, completing morning tasks, tutoring one-on-one, offering reading time for students, and other activities.

BCPS served 516,946 breakfasts at elementary and middle schools during the 2015-16 school year – an average of 3,023 breakfasts per day. Some 85.3 percent of students took part in Breakfast in the Classroom, an increase of 32.4 percent in participation over the previous year. Morning disciplinary referrals declined at six of seven participating schools that reported year-to-year comparisons, with declines ranging from 8 percent to 58 percent.

BCPS staff offered positive feedback on the program:
•    “It has changed the culture in the building in the morning. The day starts off in a smooth and constructive way.”
•    “I don’t think we’ve had one (behavioral) referral (before or) during breakfast.”
•    “Everyone gets their morning started in a positive way.”

Sargent said UWBCKR is exploring ways to better understand and measure the impact of Breakfast in the Classroom on academic performance.