Breakfast with Buddies Brings Reading to the Cafeteria

Children who eat breakfast are more likely to reach higher levels of achievement in reading and in math. With that in mind, Haleyville City School District in Alabama incorporated reading as a core focus of their recent National School Breakfast Week celebrations.

Child Nutrition Director Emma Anne Hallman was looking for a reason to open up the elementary school cafeteria to students’ loved ones. After a little brainstorming, the “Breakfast with Buddies” character breakfast came to life to celebrate the importance of breakfast and it’s positive impact in the classroom.

“The students invited a special person to have breakfast with them at school and we had popular book characters greet everyone in the cafeteria,” said Emma Anne Hallman, Child Nutrition Director for Haleyville City Schools. “If a student didn’t have someone to join them, high schoolers volunteered to eat with that student.”

Hallman says it was a team effort to bring the weeklong celebration to the school. She worked with the librarian to decorate the cafeteria serving lines with books to match the theme of National School Breakfast Week (NSBW), Dig In To School Breakfast.

“The librarian provided us with construction-themed books and we gave each child a bookmark to use for their in-class reading,” said Hallman.

The school nutrition team also worked with the parent-teacher organization to bring the book characters to the cafeteria. Madeline, Hedgie the Hedgehog, Esteban the Magnificent from The Day the Crayons Quit and Spot the Dog greeted students and took photos.

During breakfast, there were conversation starter notes on each table, such as “Do you like waffles or french toast?”. The elementary school students were also able to show off their knowledge in the cafeteria, showing their guests where to get their meals, how to input their number to pay for breakfast and where to dispose of trash.

Hallman said they faced a challenge in getting high school students to the cafeteria for breakfast when buses arrive at the opposite end of the school. The school nutrition team decided to bring breakfast to the students. Each morning, they would wheel a cart outside to bring breakfast to high schoolers.

When a district maintenance worker noticed the nutrition team’s dedication to standing in the elements to serve breakfast from the cart, he came up with a way to improve service. Steve Bryant approached Hallman with his idea for a “breakfast box” to protect the staff from the weather. With a very small budget from the nutrition department, Bryant transformed a trailer into a serving space for students with a heater, awning and menu board.

“The Breakfast Box is on wheels so we can also use it for summer meals,” said Hallman. They decorate it for the holidays and can even play music.

Hallman believes the cafeteria is an extension of the classroom and the school nutrition team helps to support lessons with food and nutrition tie-ins. For instance, they made traditional dumplings for students when they were learning about the Chinese New Year. Moon pies were served when students gathered to watch the Artemis rocket launch on its mission to circle the moon.

The district is also designated as a STEAM district, meaning there is an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. In the fall, the school nutrition team joined in a district-wide scarecrow-building competition. The one unique requirement was for the scarecrow to contain a QR code. The nutrition team decided their QR code would link to a playlist of songs with food in the title. Among the songs on the playlist were Tooty Fruity, Strawberry Fields, Cheeseburger in Paradise, the Corn Song and On Top of Spaghetti.

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