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Implement Effective Breakfast After the Bell Programs
young girl taking milk out of a crate in her classroom

The School Breakfast Program ensures that kids get the nutrition they need to learn and succeed in school. A student that eats school breakfast is more likely to do better on standardized tests, attend class more frequently and have less behavioral issues, which leads to greater job-readiness and self-sufficiency after high school. The most effective way for students to get a healthy breakfast is to make it part of the school day. Models such as Breakfast in the Classroom or Grab and Go to the Classroom result in the greatest gains in school breakfast participation. Use the resources below to implement an effective Breakfast After the Bell program.

Engage school stakeholders and gain buy-in

It is important to have buy-in from teachers, administrators, nutrition services professional and others to ensure smooth implementation. These Talking Points for Introducing Breakfast After the Bell to School Stakeholders can be a great way to start building support for Breakfast After the Bell. The following resources also provide multiple ways to engage school stakeholders around the importance of school breakfast for academic success, and explain how the process works. 

One big piece of the puzzle for school district administration and education stakeholders is how school breakfast gets funded. The school nutrition budget, which funds all school meals programs, is separate from the school district general fund. Therefore, the school breakfast program does not compete for the same resources that teachers and classrooms do. This educators guide to school breakfast funding illuminates how the funding that supports school breakfast and lunch makes it way from Congress to cafeteria. It also answers common questions that educators have about how the school meals programs work.

Breakfast Videos Show Educators How To Make It Work: Step-by-Step

School breakfast models such as Breakfast in the ClassroomGrab And Go to the Classroom and Second Chance Breakfast increase access to school breakfast by incorporating breakfast into the instructional day. These videos, created by No Kid Hungry and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation show school-based staff how to make breakfast a part of the school day with ease.

Breakfast in the Classroom Myths

Pushback often comes from school stakeholders that don’t know how Breakfast After the Bell operates. This Breakfast After the Bell Myths resource sheds light on five common myths that persist about Breakfast After the Bell (BAB), including that BAB takes away from instructional time and that it causes messes in the classroom.

Impacts of Breakfast After the Bell

No Kid Hungry commissioned a study by the University of California Santa Barbara examining whether serving breakfast after the bell as a regular part of the school day can reduce chronic absenteeism.   This study included an analysis of state-level and national data.   The Study on Chronic Absenteeism and Breakfast After the Bell found that serving breakfast as part of the school day can reduce chronic absenteeism by an average of 6 percentage points and also improve other student outcomes.  

No Kid Hungry collaborated with Deloitte Consulting LLP to conduct an analysis of the long-term social impact of school breakfast on the lives of low-income children. No Kid Hungry Starts with Breakfast showed there are dramatic potential impacts associated with the simple act of feeding kids a healthy school breakfast, including positive, large-scale outcomes in education, economics and health.

Select a model that works for your school

The most effective way to boost school breakfast participation is by using Breakfast After the Bell models. This Innovative Breakfast Delivery Options resource summarizes how different Breakfast After the Bell models are structured and the percentage increase your school breakfast program can experience by adopting these models.

USDA’s Breakfast Method Fact Sheet help you determine which Breakfast After the Bell model is most suited for your school. Principals should consult with school nutrition staff to help choose a model.

Develop a plan for effective implementation

Careful planning can ensure that your implementation is a success from day one. Our Pre-Implementation Checklist outlines several steps that can help schools prepare for a Breakfast After the Bell program, such as of providing trainings to key stakeholders, developing an implementation plan and connecting with other schools to share best practices. The Breakfast in the Classroom Rollout Timeline and the Grab and Go Rollout Timeline outline action steps school stakeholders can take to help prepare for the launch of Breakfast After the Bell. The rollout timelines span both long-term action steps and short-term action steps -- starting at eight weeks before implementation and counting down each week until launch.

Plan the Breakfast After the Bell Menu 

For information on preparing healthy, tasteful menu offerings that appeal to children, consult the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Smart Food Planner.

Reduce Food Waste in Your Program

Reducing food waste is important to students, parents, educators and food service staff alike. Strategies to Reduce Food Waste in Schools & Child Nutrition Programs highlights some of the most effective strategies to help reduce, recover and recycle food waste from school meals. For example, incorporating strategies such as scheduling recess before lunch, giving students enough time to eat school meals so they aren't rushed, and donating surplus food can make a big difference in reducing the amount of food that is thrown away each year.

Engage Students

Marketing is an essential component to increasing school breakfast participation. Getting the word out about school breakfast helps to ensure that more kids start the day with the fuel they need to learn, grow and thrive. School Breakfast Promotion Strategies highlight ways that you can build awareness, generate excitement and ultimately increase school breakfast participation. 

Visual reminders, such as posters displayed around the school, can help nudge students to participate in the breakfast program. 

Implement an Effective Grab and Go Breakfast Program

Allowing students to pick up convenient, pre-packaged meals from mobile carts in high traffic areas, on their way to the classroom is an effective model for reaching hungry kids. The Grab and Go to the Classroom model can work particularly well for older students who are in a rush to start class and may have not eaten and home. This Grab and Go guide, Tips for Implementing an Effective Grab and Go Breakfast Program, highlights the tricks of the trade to make your program efficient and effective.

Implement Effective Breakfast Programs in Middle and High Schools

An estimated 6.8 million young people ages 10 to 17 struggle with having enough to eat, including 2.9 million who experience very low food security. Serving effective school breakfast programs tailored to the needs and preferences of older students can help address this problem. Initially more common in elementary schools, an increasing number of secondary schools across the country are implementing successful Breakfast After the Bell Programs. Making Breakfast After the Bell work in Middle and High Schools provides tips and examples for implementing school breakfast programs for older students.

Breakfast Nudges

Schools can incorporate "nudges" into their morning routine to increase breakfast participation. Nudges are subtle acts of positive reinforcement that try to influence a student’s behavior, such as having school staff ask students if they’ve had breakfast that morning. Our Breakfast Nudges guide provides helpful tips about how to increase breakfast participation by using positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions to influence students to eat school breakfast.

Raise Awareness Among Parents

It is important to inform parents about the Breakfast After the Bell program before it launches and engages them in the process. Use PTA meetings, Back to School nights and other venues to talk to parents about the importance of breakfast and how the Breakfast After the Bell program will work.

No Kid Hungry’s Breakfast FAQs for Parents is a customizable resource that answers those frequently asked questions that school nutrition directors and principals get from parents regarding Breakfast After the Bell.

This template letter can be customized by schools to inform families about a new Breakfast in the Classroom program:

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Implement Afterschool Meals Programs Available to Your Whole Student Body
boy eating pizza from his afterschool meals

Schools that operate afterschool snack or meal programs often serve a small percentage of the students enrolled that the school. Schools are increasingly expanding their programs so that more students and even kids in the community are able to access a nutritious meal or snack.

Open your afterschool meals program to the school campus

Schools that have operated an “umbrella” model for serving afterschool meals have seen dramatic increases in participation. In the Umbrella Model, the meal or snack is available and actively promoted to all children as part of a broad afterschool program that offers a range of activities or an open-to-all drop-in activity like tutoring. Since children do not actually have to participate in order to receive a meal, schools can offer the meals without tracking participation. This is in contrast to a program that operates solely for children enrolled in or attending a specific enrichment activity. The Afterschool Meals Umbrella Model Handout and the CACFP Afterschool Meals Program Report Brief: Expansion with the Umbrella Model describe the success of schools operating umbrella models and provide guidance on expanding your afterschool meals program. You can use this Afterschool Meals Promotion: Sample Text for the Umbrella Model resource.

Serve supper in the classroom

Serving an afterschool meal in the classroom is an excellent way to ensure that all students have the opportunity to get needed nutrition at the end of the school day. When students eat together in the classroom, everyone has time for the meal before other activities begin or buses arrive. Pilot tests also show that Supper in the Classroom has the potential to dramatically boost participation: the schools that implemented this serving model reached an average of 80 percent of all students. The Supper in the Classroom Handout: Increase Access to CACFP Afterschool Meals and CACFP Afterschool Meals Program Report Brief: Increasing Access with Supper in the Classroom provide insights and results from schools that implemented Supper in the Classroom.

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Expand Summer Meals Programs
young girl with sunglasses stands in front on a truck that reads "free meals here"

Schools play a pivotal role in feeding students during the school year, but they can also ensure that kids have access to nutritious meals during the summer. Schools across the country are implementing strong programs by optimizing meal service, marketing the program to children and families, and expanding program reach through community partnerships and innovative program delivery models.

Promote summer meals programs to your students and their families

National research shows that only 40 percent of low-income families know about summer meals programs in their community. Recognizing the critical role that schools play in communicating with students and their families, The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act requires school food authorities to inform families about the availability and location of summer meals programs in the community. Resources in this section will help you plan your summer outreach strategy and give you the tools to reach families and kids in your community.

The Sodexo Foundation Summer Meals Outreach Toolkit provides template materials to help spread the word about summer meals, including press releases, flyers, posters and other creative collateral.

Increase participation by improving the experience for kids and families

School sponsors can do a lot to ensure that kids attend and return to summer meals programs throughout the summer. Sponsors increase program participation and retention by providing onsite activities, offering a varied menu that appeal to kids, and making the program a fun event for the entire family by offering meals to parents.

For information on preparing healthy, tasteful menu offerings that appeal to children, consult USDA’s Summer Nutrition Guide and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Smart Food Planner.

Sponsor additional sites within the community

Although schools make ideal summer meals sites, some school buildings may not be able to remain open during the summer and kids cannot always make it to the school. School districts across the country are collaborating with organizations to sponsor sites throughout the community. For many, collaboration includes mobile meals routes that bring food to kids at parks, housing complexes and other places where they spend their time during the summer.

Schools can use the Averaged Eligibility Map to determine if sites are located in an area eligible location where open summer meals programs can operate.

The Mobile Meals toolkit can help sponsors assess the benefits and potential costs of developing a mobile meals route and delivery service. Based on their assessment, sponsors are able to effectively make plans for a new mobile program or adopt best practices to improve an existing program.