A Lot to Celebrate During School Breakfast Month
It is well documented that breakfast has an important positive impact on student academic achievement, health and well-being. Although all Arkansas schools provide a school breakfast program, many of our neediest students are not starting the school day with breakfast. So what are we doing to help increase the number of students who are eating school breakfast?
Breakfast After the Bell, which takes breakfast out of the cafeteria and makes it part of the school day, is a proven strategy that has increased the number of low-income Arkansas students who are starting their days focused and ready to learn. These alternative breakfast delivery models (Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab & Go and Second Chance Breakfast) are supported by Governor Hutchinson’s Healthy Active Arkansas 10-year plan to reduce obesity and make Arkansans healthier.
Principal Matt Mellor, one of our breakfast champions who successfully added Breakfast in the Classroom at both of his elementary schools (including Daisy Bates Elementary where Gov. Hutchinson visited in 2015), says “ Breakfast in the Classroom, a program that costs us nothing, makes our grades better, our attendance better and our discipline better.”
Almost half of Arkansas schools have started Breakfast After the Bell programs, and as a result, Arkansas now ranks #7 in the nation in the percentage of students who participate in the school breakfast program. That’s an increase of 2.8% over the 2014-2015 school year, and a steady improvement from our #12 ranking in 2012/13.
Breakfast Participation Increase since Arkansas No Kid Hungry Campaign began in 2010
We have seen an increase of 3.6 million meals since Breakfast After the Bell became a priority in 2011.
Child Nutrition Department Reimbursement Increase
Increasing breakfast participation has also increased the federal reimbursements that schools’ child nutrition department budgets have realized, up $10.4 million since 2011.
There is still work to do.
We have set our goal to reach a 70 percent breakfast participation rate. Reaching that 70 percent goal would increase the federal reimbursement by an additional $4.352 million dollars. Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) will be an important part of reaching that goal. This USDA school nutrition option —which was included as a key recommendation in the 2015 Forward Arkansas education initiative and received encouragement from Governor Hutchinson during last year’s School Breakfast Month observance— allows high need schools to feed all of their students breakfast and lunch at no cost to students. Despite a slow start, more Arkansas schools are coming on board and seeing tremendous growth in breakfast participation and meal reimbursements:
2014-2015 4 schools 2 districts
2015-2016 70 schools 22 districts
2016-2017 139 schools 45 districts
A superintendent in Two Rivers— one of our small, rural school districts— said that after adopting CEP, teachers reported better concentration from students in class, and in their high school where they also offer a Second Chance breakfast after first period, nearly 100 additional students a day are eating breakfast. So, in Two Rivers and other districts around the state, sleep will no longer win out over a good breakfast.
So, there’s a lot we’re doing to promote breakfast as part of the school day because we know it has the result of increasing breakfast participation in our schools. To hear more from educators about the value of CEP and Breakfast After the Bell, watch our latest video. The Arkansas No Kid Hungry campaign helps schools begin programs by providing start-up grants and technical assistance to schools and school districts. Those interested in starting a Breakfast After the Bell program can contact Vivian Nicholson, AR No Kid Hungry breakfast program director, at email@example.com.