Breakfast After the Bell Program Coming to a School Near You - U of I Extension

News Release

Breakfast After the Bell Program Coming to a School Near You

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 2, 2017

Many Illinois schools are getting ready to implement “Breakfast After the Bell” programs this fall, but some have already gotten a head start. In a pep talk of sorts this past spring, Dr. Tesha Robinson, Principal at Wyvetter Younge Alternative Center (East St. Louis District 189), said to her teachers, “"Breakfast After the Bell is mandated and we want to be ready for it from the beginning. By conducting a pilot, we can ensure that we are properly prepared."

Dr. Robinson, referring to the Breakfast After the Bell legislation (SB 2393) passed in August 2016, has been a supporter of the bill, which will increase student access to breakfast. More than 817,000 Illinois students rely on a free or reduced-price lunch, and fewer than half of them are starting the day off with breakfast. Transportation issues, little appetite in the morning, and access to food can all get in the way of eating a nutritious breakfast.

That’s where Breakfast After the Bell comes in. Starting in fall 2017, schools with at least 70% of students eligible to receive free or reduced price meals will be required to serve breakfast after the instructional day begins. Dr. Robinson’s school, Wyvetter Younge, is just one of many in East St. Louis District 189 falling into that category. Knowing that there may be some issues to work out, the district partnered with University of Illinois Extension and Chartwells Food Service this past spring to prepare and pilot Breakfast After the Bell in advance of the 2017-2018 school year.

The district learned that the bill allows schools flexibility in choosing the right Breakfast After the Bell model for their circumstances and took advantage of this provision. Wyvetter Younge, tested a “Grab and Go” breakfast, in which students picked up packaged breakfasts on their way into the school and then ate in class. Meanwhile, four kindergarten classrooms at Annette Officer Elementary School and twelve 5th grade classrooms at Mason Clark Middle School piloted “Breakfast in the Classroom.” Chartwells Food Service staff prepared breakfast meals taken directly to classrooms, where students were able to eat at their desks.

There may be some concerns about serving food in the classroom: Laquitsha Bejoile-Hayes, UI Extension Program Coordinator, explained that staff are often worried about it distracting from instructional time and leading to messes. After the District 189 pilots, teachers noted that it did take some adjustment, but taking attendance, collecting homework, and making announcements while students ate helped to maximize the class period.  Dust buster kits were provided to all participating teachers and students were responsible for cleanup. 

Despite initial misgivings, teachers were overwhelmingly positive about the results. One teacher commented that she felt it cut down on behavioral issues and bullying that were happening in the cafeteria, helping her students start their day off positively. Another described less disruption in class and calmer, more focused students.

Further underscoring the success of the pilots was what happened when Breakfast After the Bell came to an end. One educator stated, “This week [after the pilot ended] I’ve had latecomers asking for breakfast. It was heartbreaking to see the sad look on their faces because there was no breakfast available to them.” Mrs. Pippen-Stewart, Chartwell Food Service Lead, explained that before the Breakfast After the Bell pilot, many students who hadn’t eaten breakfast would go down to the cafeteria, crying because they had a headache or their stomach hurt but they were actually hungry.

Amy Funk, UI Extension SNAP-Ed Educator, said “hunger has a known negative impact on children’s academic performance and behavior in school. Breakfast After the Bell is built on research demonstrating that eating breakfast can boost academic performance, improve classroom behavior, and reduce tardiness and absenteeism.” Following the District 189 pilots, “it was exciting to hear the number of teachers that cited improved concentration and better behavior in the mornings during the pilot week, demonstrating the potential positive impact Breakfast After the Bell can have over the course of a year, once implemented,” Funk said. “Thanks to this legislation, thousands of Illinois students will reap the benefits.”

Despite the positives of expanding school breakfast, implementing Breakfast After the Bell does present a major paradigm shift for schools, and it can be a challenge to plan for additional equipment and changes to staffing and logistics. University of Illinois Extension has partnered with the Illinois State Board of Education and Rise & Shine Illinois to help schools prepare for their Breakfast After the Bell programs. UI Extension’s ABCs of School Nutrition staff are available throughout Illinois to provide technical assistance, training, and breakfast promotion.

For more information, visit extension.illinois.edu/abcsofschoolnutrition or contact Amy Funk, SNAP-Ed Extension Educator with the University of Illinois Extension amyfunk@illinois.edu or 618-344-4230.

Source: Amy Funk, Visiting Extension Educator, SNAP-Ed, amyfunk@illinois.edu

Pull date: August 1, 2017