Program takes advantage of short morning break to add to morning meal counts
At the Hemet (CA) USD east of Los Angeles, some 1,600 more elementary students were getting breakfast at school at the end of the last school year than at the beginning, a more-than-50-percent increase. The reason: the district's new “second chance breakfast” program, which takes advantage of a 20-minute recess break around 9 a.m. each day to offer children a breakfast meal after school has already started for the day.
The offerings include the whole range of breakfast items available before classes begin, including hot selections like oatmeal and pancakes, along with breakfast bars, fruit, whole-wheat muffins, cereal and breakfast sandwiches, says Food Service Director Brad Knipscheer. “Most get their food in the cafeteria and then go outside — this is Southern California, so the weather is usually very nice,” he says.
The program started last fall at one school where there was a big problem with children reporting to the nurse's office complaining that they were not feeling well. The problem for many was that they hadn't eaten, so the school started offering the second chance breakfast. “It took off right away,” says Jennifer McNeil, RD, a dietitian who works for the district. “They expected that maybe 40 or 50 kids would take advantage of it, but they had a hundred.”
The program quickly expanded to other elementaries, and by May 12 of the 14 sites at Hemet were offering second-chance breakfasts. The result: from a typical daily breakfast count of around 2,700 when the year started, Hemet was seeing more than 4,300 by year's end.
They are all unique sales, too. The system guards against any child who has already purchased breakfast earlier from purchasing another, says Knipscheer. The district is looking at expanding the program to the middle and high schools but the snag is that in these schools, unlike the elementaries, schedules would have to be adjusted to accommodate a morning break.