Benefits of Breakfast Available For All Students

While school meal service might look very different this year, the importance of providing easily accessible and healthy school meals hasn’t changed. Now more than ever, families can count on schools to nourish students to start the school day, with breakfast provided free for all students through special USDA waivers this school year. National School Breakfast Week (NSBW) offers an opportunity to focus on the benefits seen from providing equal access to free meals, with many school districts seeing an increase in breakfast participation.

Even with only 60 percent of the student body learning in-person, Mansfield Independent School District (TX) has witnessed a major increase in breakfast participation. In combination with offering the meals for free, the district has also been very creative about ways to serve students and ensure access between grab n’ go in the cafeteria serving line, Breakfast in the Classroom, Second Chance Breakfast, home delivery and curbside pick-up.

“Since all kids now get a free breakfast, parents are more apt to allow and encourage their child to eat at school without worrying about their budget,” said Rita L. Denton, MBA, director of student nutrition for MISD. “We also started four breakfast in the classroom models, which has improved access and increased participation.”

While NSBW celebrations often highlight school breakfast with contests and fun games, COVID-19 restrictions have limited some of those activities. According to Denton, they are still featuring new menu items at their elementary level, like the high school student favorite of scratch-made egg and cheese omelets. Other scratch baked breakfasts include cinnamon rolls, apple cinnamon muffins and breakfast breads.

“Contests and events are a little more challenging with the complexities of COVID-19 mitigation efforts,” she said. “We are going to definitely have fun with the food items and run a lot of advertisements.”

The district has also ramped up their social media efforts to reach parents. Since COVID first shut down schools in the district last spring, the number of followers on Facebook has more than doubled. Denton said that their department has utilized the increase in social media followers to get their message out about the healthy meals available for free to all students. 

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