Breakfast in the Classroom Helps Students Focus

School districts have been incorporating Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) for years as a way to increase student participation in school breakfast and better prepare students for a rigorous day of learning.

Studies show that students who eat a healthy and balanced breakfast are more focused, better prepared and often show less behavioral issues in the morning. There is also a direct correlation with BIC programs and decreased tardiness/increased academic performance.

A student in Broome-Tioga BOCES (NY) enjoys some fresh fruit, milk and cereal at her desk.

After hearing about the program from The American Dairy Association, Broome-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services in Endicott (NY) began to introduce BIC into its schools.

According to Broome-Tioga BOCES Senior Director of Food Services Mark Bordeau, the rate of participation in breakfast has jumped from 25% to an impressive 85% over the past few years. BIC makes breakfast available for free to all students in their classrooms, thereby eliminating the stigma associated with low-income students eating breakfast in the cafeteria prior to the start of school. That stigma was often seen as a barrier that may prevent students from participating in the National School Breakfast Program.  Response from teachers has also been positive.

Houston County Schools in Perry (GA) has witnessed an increase in student breakfast participation as well with a combination of BIC and traditional cafeteria service.

A typical grab and go breakfast that students can enjoy at their desk in Houston County Schools (GA).

The district has 16 Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) schools, a meal service option for school districts in low-income areas, that has helped increase from 49.5% student participation in breakfast to more than 85%.

To help make breakfast service efficient for schools and students, Houston County sought a grant to purchase new coolers and freezers for seven of their schools. The additional equipment helps schools to store more food and ultimately add variety to their breakfast menu options.

In the cafeteria, homemade cheese grits and a chicken or sausage biscuit meal is often the students’ favorite, especially on days when eggs are offered as part of the menu, according to HCS School Nutrition Program Dietitian Lauren Koff. Mobile breakfast carts also offer students a variety of quick and easy options, like morning pastry, biscuits, cereal bars, etc. that can be eaten in the classroom or in the hall before school.

Breakfast in the Classroom allows students to fuel up before class in Houston County Schools (GA).

Data collected has shown that fewer HCS students visit the nurse complaining of stomach “hunger pains” in the morning and fewer behavioral problems have been reported since BIC has become available.

The benefits of BIC are numerous, including improved cognitive function, academic attendance and performance; improved overall dietary quality and reduced Body Mass Index. According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, BIC has also been associated with fewer students skipping breakfast. In some cases, school breakfasts are the only breakfast a child will have access to in the morning.

Houston County schools were furnished with a generous grant from the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom, which helped make their breakfast-in-the-classroom program possible. The School Nutrition Foundation is one of the Partners for BIC, a consortium of anti-hunger groups currently funding BIC grants in the following ten states: Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.

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