Traditional school breakfast programs often have barriers that prohibit students from eating breakfast before school, such as:
- Transportation: The school bus doesn’t arrive in time for kids to get breakfast in the cafeteria.
- Busy mornings: Regardless of their socioeconomic status, many families are rushed in the morning and don’t always have time for breakfast at home.
- Stigma: There is often a stigma associated with eating breakfast in the cafeteria before school starts; therefore, children avoid it, especially middle- and high-school students, for whom social status and the perceptions of their peers loom large.
- Lack of resources: For low-income families, there simply may not always be enough food at home for kids to have a healthy breakfast.
Across the country, educators, parents and community leaders are removing these barriers for kids by implementing Breakfast After the Bell programs. Because each school is unique, schools often create their own individualized Breakfast After the Bell programs that combine elements of multiple models so they can fully cater to the needs of their students and staff.
Breakfast in the Classroom
Students eat breakfast in their classroom after the official start of the school day. Students or staff deliver breakfasts to classrooms from the cafeteria via coolers or insulated rolling bags. Breakfast in the Classroom takes 15 minutes on average. Schools reach 88 percent breakfast participation on average with this model.*
Grab and Go
Students pick up conveniently packaged breakfasts from mobile service carts in high traffic areas that are convenient to students, such as hallways, entryways or cafeterias. Students can eat in their classroom or in a common area before and after the bell has rung. Schools reach 59 percent breakfast participation on average with this model.*
Second Chance Breakfast
Students eat breakfast during a break in the morning, often between first and second period or midway between breakfast and lunch. Schools can serve breakfast using a Grab and Go model, or they can open the cafeteria to serve breakfast during the break. Second Chance Breakfast can be effective for middle or high school students who may not be hungry first thing in the morning or prefer to socialize with friends. Schools reach 58 percent breakfast participation on average with this model.*
* Participation is measured by the average daily participation of free- and reduced-price school breakfast eaters / average daily participation free- and reduced-price school lunch eaters.
Additionally, universal breakfast is a helpful addition to any breakfast model, as it removes the financial barriers students may face when participating in the National School Breakfast Program. Universal breakfast is when breakfast is offered to all students at no cost. Schools continue to claim federal reimbursement in the correct category for any student participating in the breakfast program. Offering breakfast at no cost generally increases breakfast participation, and removes stigma lower-income students often face when they eat breakfast at school. Schools can enroll in a few federal programs to assist with offering universal breakfast, including the Community Eligibility Provision and Provision 2. To compare these two options for providing universal free school meals, check out our resource: Providing Universal Free School Meals.
Checklists for Getting Ready
The following tools have been created for school nutrition directors and administrators to identify key aspects of the preparation process, including the need to identify necessary equipment for your Breakfast After the Bell Program, utilizing stakeholders in the school for planning assistance and developing an implementation timeline.
USDA’s Breakfast Method Fact Sheet can be a helpful guide in choosing a breakfast model. Below, No Kid Hungry's Key's to Success Model Guide, can also help you choose which Breakfast After the Bell model best suits your school.
|No Kid Hungry’s Keys to Success Model Guide|
|Breakfast in the Classroom||
|Grab and Go (GNG) to the Classroom||
|Second Chance Breakfast||
No Kid Hungry’s Pre-Implementation Checklist is a mapped out list of action steps schools can take to prepare for BAB implementation, from creating a school breakfast team to connecting with schools that have already implemented BAB to learn from their experiences.
No Kid Hungry’s Breakfast After the Bell Rollout Timelines 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 8 weeks before implementation and counting down each week until launch:
This Equipment Tip Sheet from No Kid Hungry may also provide helpful guidance as schools assess their equipment needs.
USDA has multiple resources that schools can use to determine how expanding school breakfast will affect the revenue, variable costs versus fixed costs and overall operation of breakfast.
Plan the Menu
Breakfast in the Classroom and Grab and Go to the Classroom will need to have easily transportable food items that are healthy and appealing to students.
- The Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Smart Food Planner has recipes and four-week cycle menus that can be useful for food service directors to use in their districts.
- USDA’s Nutrition and Menu Planning Resources provide menu ideas, nutrition basics and suggested resources for additional assistance with breakfast menu planning.
Soliciting student feedback for the school breakfast program can increase student buy-in for the program, as well as create a more sustainable Breakfast After the Bell program. Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom’s In-Depth Survey Toolkit provides survey ideas and templates.
Train staff who will be directly affected by the change in breakfast, including cafeteria staff, teachers and custodians. Appropriate training enables teachers and food service staff to have the necessary support they need during the start-up phase of implementation and ensures program integrity. As the implementation process rolls out, additional training may be necessary.
Teachers will benefit from this Classroom Set Up and Clean Up guide, which informs them about how Breakfast After the Bell affects their classroom and provides guidance on how they can create a morning routine that works for them.
Focus on Meal Quality
Meal quality is an integral component of any meal program. It can mean many different things, including serving culturally appropriate foods, offering a hot meal on cold days, and making sure the appearance of the meals are appealing to students. Meal Quality: Adaptability, Creativity and Fun shares promising practices from school nutrition teams across the nation that have utilized their creativity and ingenuity to master meal quality, such as how to focus on customer service and create an inclusive meals program, the importance of promoting your meals program, and how to stay inspired and keep the menu varied.
Reduce Food Waste
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.
High breakfast participation is the result of many different aspects of the breakfast program running smoothly, from the logistics of the program to gaining buy-in from the student body. These resources highlight how to increase breakfast participation.
Grab and Go to the Classroom: Successful Grab and Go programs serve meals from convenient, high-traffic areas of the school and allow students to eat them in the classroom after the official start of the school day. Check out these tips for implementing an effective Grab and Go program to make sure that your school’s program reaches the most students possible.
Communications and Nudges: Spend adequate time promoting the new breakfast program, as stakeholders may need several rounds of messaging to understand the logistics of the new program or the impact expanding school breakfast will have on them. For students in particular, once the new program has been implemented, they may need reminders that school breakfast is available to them in a new way. No Kid Hungry Breakfast Nudges outlines how the subtle act of asking students if they’ve had breakfast that morning can increase participation.
Middle and High Schools: Breakfast After the Bell Strategies for Middle and High Schools shares the best practices that schools from across the country have used to increase their middle and high school breakfast participation. Tactics such as engaging students in the planning process, soliciting student feedback and offering Second Chance Breakfast have shown success in getting more middle and high school students to eat school breakfast.
Provide Universal Free School Meals: Removing the financial barrier of breakfast increases participation. Providing Universal Free School Meals offers a comparison of three options for offering students school meals at no cost to them: the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), Provision 2, and non-pricing.
Best Practices to Operate BAB without Universal Meals: Best Practices to Operate BAB without Universal Meals offers techniques you can apply to your BAB program to ensure smooth operations while boosting breakfast participation.