As the end of the 2017 school year approached, the Lemon Grove School District was evaluating whether to keep serving Breakfast in the Classroom or move back to the traditional model of serving it before the start of the school day. Our partner Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP) reached out to us to help engage and train members of the community to advocate for keeping Breakfast in the Classroom as part of their community collaborative with Kaiser, the Lemon Grove HEAL Zone.
So why is protecting breakfast in the classroom important? In San Diego County, one in four children arrive to school without having started their day ready to learn supported by a nutritious meal. By serving breakfast in the classroom students can start their day enjoying a meal with their peers in an educational setting and their parents save time during their morning commutes by not having to drop off their children early before the first bell. Studies show that well-nourished children are better prepared for their academic success, are less tardy, visit the nurse’s office less, and cause fewer disruptions in the classroom.
Our School Meals Program Director Robin McNulty and Director of Policy and Advocacy Diane Wilkinson engaged with parents, students and community health partners and trained them to advocate for keeping breakfast in the classroom. They supplied these supporters with talking points and information on the benefits of Breakfast in the Classroom. They also helped them prepare to make public testimonies to the Lemon Grove School District Governance Board and practiced ways to best convey their commitment to their children.
On May 9th, our training paid-off and parents, students and community health advocates came to the Lemon Grove School District Governance Board Meeting to support Breakfast in the Classroom. Together we were successful in gaining the Governance Board’s approval to keep Breakfast in the Classroom for one more year!
Moving forward we will continue to work with CHIP and the Lemon Grove HEAL Zone to keep breakfast in the classroom. Our recommendations include working together with the teachers and the food service director in the school district who opposed the program to address their concerns and develop strategies to overcome barriers. Some ways this could be done is by convening a school breakfast task force to evaluate the long-term sustainability of Breakfast in the Classroom, identifying Board policy changes, and re-training teachers and students on how to document participation in the program. Additionally, identifying breakfast items students prefer and better District promotion of the benefits of Breakfast in the Classroom will help support this valuable program and feed more children in need.