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Start or Expand a School Breakfast Program

School Breakfast program Assistance

Approximately 1 in every 5 Massachusetts households with children is food insecure. While these children and their families may not be hungry today or even tomorrow, the threat of hunger is a daily reality in their households. Federal nutrition programs are a critical safety net to help keep these families’ budgets in balance and minimize trade-offs between food, housing, medical care, and other critical needs. School meal programs such as the National School Breakfast Program (NSBP) and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) help bridge this gap for families, providing nutritious meals at low or no cost to low-income students at schools throughout the country.

Starting the day with a nutritious meal is important for every student—no matter their family’s income level—but for children who don't eat breakfast at home, school breakfast is especially important. Children who eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to retain what they learn in class, behave better, and experience better health outcomes. Of the more than 400,000 students in Massachusetts who qualify for free and reduced-price meals, only around 40% received breakfast at school before the pandemic. Project Bread strives to expand access to school breakfast programs across the state to ensure all students start the school day with a healthy meal to enable them to learn and thrive.

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School Breakfast Program Assistance

Contact our Child Nutrition Outreach team for assistance with your School Breakfast program!

Start a school breakfast program

Starting a breakfast program enables students who may not otherwise have access to a nutritious meal in the morning to eat breakfast when they arrive at school.  Breakfast After the Bell (BATB) programs are the best way to increase access to breakfast for all students. To make sure your program has the highest possible impact, there are many things to consider. It is important to assess your school(s) to determine which breakfast model will be the best fit. Busing schedules, cafeteria capacity and equipment, staffing, and logistics should all be considered. Project Bread’s Child Nutrition Outreach team is here to help you work through every step of starting a school breakfast program.

Once you have decided on a model, you should analyze the financial viability of the program. Project Bread can help calculate various costs and determine the best options for your program and your bottom line.

Finally, introducing a successful school breakfast program requires support from the whole school community. Involving all stakeholders and promoting the program through all available channels helps to ease the process and increase awareness of the program.

Expand a school breakfast program

Expanding your breakfast program can increase participation and ensure that more students have access to a healthy school breakfast each morning. As with starting a new breakfast program, it is important to consider the range of logistical needs of your school community to determine which breakfast model, and what program changes may be the best fit.  Project Bread’s Child Nutrition Outreach team can provide technical assistance to any Massachusetts school district looking to improve or expand its breakfast program.

Starts Line

Expanding your program to include Breakfast After the Bell options is an effective way to increase participation. Serving breakfast in the classroom, offering “Grab & Go” kiosks or bags, or cycling students through the cafeteria in shifts throughout the morning for a “Second Chance” breakfast are all ways to help more students access breakfast. Piloting the program in one grade or one classroom can also help build confidence in expanding breakfast programs as you prepare to roll out a program across the school or district.

If choosing to serve breakfast outside of the cafeteria, work with cafeteria staff to develop a system for pre-packing, delivery, and point of service accountability. Make sure that breakfasts are easy to transport, eat, and clean up.

Making school breakfast available to all students free of charge is another strong strategy for increasing access to your school breakfast program. This can be accomplished by enrolling in federal provisions such as the Community Eligibility Provision or Provision 2. The Child Nutrition Outreach team at Project Bread can assist any Massachusetts school district interested in exploring options to make free school meals more accessible in your community.

Types of Breakfast After the Bell or Alternative Models

Breakfast is served in the classroom, usually during homeroom or first period. In a BIC model, coolers are brought to each classroom and students are served at the beginning of class. Since this model makes breakfast a regular part of class time, schools and districts often achieve the highest rates of success in boosting participation. Time spent eating in the classroom while teachers begin attendance or instruction can be counted towards time spent learning.

Breakfast After the Bell Quick Guide

In a Grab & Go model, easy-to-eat breakfast foods are packaged in individual bags for students to take as they enter the school building. Schools can set rules for where breakfast can be consumed, such as playgrounds, hallways, the cafeteria, and classrooms. Breakfast stations are often located at school entrances or other high-traffic areas. Coolers can also be placed on each level of the school to allow students to grab breakfast on their way to class.

Grab & Go Breakfast Quick Guide

The Second Chance Breakfast  model provides a “second chance” for students to get breakfast by building in a scheduled time for breakfast after the school day has begun, usually served during a class break or passing time. It is a flexible model that can be operated out of the cafeteria, at kiosks in the hallway, in lobbies/multipurpose rooms, or all of the above! This model is often  used at Middle, Intermediate or High Schools, where older students report not being hungry in the early morning. It can also be successful at the elementary level by cycling classes through the Second Chance Breakfast at specific intervals during the morning, accompanied by their classroom teachers. You can work with your administrators to schedule a 10-20 minute breakfast block after early morning classes, and ultimately, build breakfast into the academic day and the school culture.

Second Chance Breakfast Quick Guide

Sometimes, one size does not fit all, and a single alternative breakfast model may not sufficiently meet the specific needs of a school. In these cases, we encourage districts and schools to create their own “hybrid” models. Many schools have seen success by implementing a combination or modification of BATB models based on what works best for their student body across different age groups, grades, campus layouts, and schedules. For example, a common modification within elementary or K-8 schools is to serve younger students via Breakfast in the Classroom, and provide older students with breakfast via Grab & Go carts or kiosks. 

Schools also sometimes combine 2+ models. For instance, during a Second Chance period a school could provide breakfast from carts or in classrooms on different floors of their campus for younger students, and also allow older students to funnel into the cafeteria or strategically located Grab and Go carts to prevent crowding in one area.  The most important element of hybrid models is creativity. You and your administrators can work together to shape a flexible and robust program that provides accessible and healthy breakfast for all. The Child Nutrition Outreach team at Project Bread can help schools develop a hybrid model that best fits the needs of the school.