Ohio District Sees Great Results for Breakfast in the Classroom

When some teachers first hear “Breakfast in the Classroom” they can be skeptical about  the idea of encouraging food and eating in their rooms.  But with a well-planned rollout, Garfield Heights City Schools (Ohio) Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program quickly won over both students and staff with its benefits.0-4

“The staff recognizes what a good thing BIC is for our kids and are willing to work together to make sure that it is effective and works for everyone,” said GHCS Teacher Tarese Lapelli. “Because of better access to healthy breakfast, student attention is better, there is less tardiness, we don’t see the typical hunger mood swings and sleepiness, and the kids are more prepared for learning.”

While any BIC program will need tweaks or alterations to make it work best for the school, Lapelli said “it is all about how you approach it with your kids – go in with a positive mindset.”

The district’s first challenge was the location of the cart outside of classrooms in the hallways, which required multiple discussions about timing, space and location logistics.  The mobile cart greatly improved the freshness and quality of the food offered to students, with a long list of nutritious hot and cold breakfast options. According to Lapelli, her students bring their breakfast to the classroom, talk about the food they chose and share uneaten food with classmates. Students are encouraged to build a balanced meal, with choices like egg and cheese omelet, fresh seasonal fruit, chicken sausage patty, strawberry yogurt parfait, celery sticks with soy butter, applesauce, low-sugar cereal with low-fat milk and blueberry muffins. 


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These rolling insulated coolers are one serving option in the GHCS (OH) Breakfast in the Classroom program.

Administrators across the district agree that with the right communication skills and preparation for everyone involved, less problems arose when they started their BIC program.

“Once it’s properly explained to everyone, BIC is a simple concept for students and school staff,” said Maple Leaf Elementary School Principal Jean Rizy. “At Maple Leaf, students walk to the breakfast carts, they pick their breakfast items and walk to their classroom where they are greeted by their teacher. Our younger students are recognizing words on the cart and starting to have conversations about healthy food choices. We’ve had no pushback from any teachers – all have welcomed it.”

GHCS teacher Damon Fletcher feels BIC helps create a family atmosphere by allowing students to eat privately as a small group with fewer classmates around. Instead of being surrounded by 600 other students in a cafeteria, BIC creates a less noisy and less distracting environment for students to get their brains ready for the day.

Sean Patton, former principal at William Foster Elementary, helped implement BIC in the district elementary schools. In addition to giving students a morning routine and providing them with healthy meals, BIC can also be an important learning and bonding experience between students and their teachers.OH NSBW18_3 He suggested teachers select items and enjoy the food with their students, helping to teach best practices for a healthy breakfast. Teachers can also include a “clean up time” before instruction, providing students with a responsibility to keep their desk clean and show how to properly dispose of food waste and recyclable containers.

“If students know that they have breakfast available, it’s a reliable way to start the day and cut down on tardies,” Patton said. “You have to understand that there might be challenges, but it will benefit all students. This might be a student’s only opportunity for a meal before lunch.”

The breakfast carts and other BIC equipment were funded through grants distributed by the School Nutrition Foundation and Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom (supported by the Walmart Foundation). 

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