Students Off to a Healthy Start with Breakfast in the Classroom
When you think of school backpacks, you typically imagine them filled with books, spiral-bound note pads, folders, pencils and pens. But what do backpacks and school breakfast programs have in common?
That is until you travel to Evansville, Indiana, where backpacks were used to transfer milk, bagels, jam and cereal boxes to hundreds of students who once attended Howard Roosa Elementary School.
Educators there noticed too many students were missing out on breakfast and starting their school day hungry. Bus schedules and late arrivals were among the reasons that many students gave for not eating breakfast in the cafeteria, so teachers brought their concerns to Brynn Karash, principal of Howard Roosa, and soon after, the “Breakfast in the Classroom” program was born.
“Teachers and support staff decided to get breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the classroom in an effort to ensure every student started the school day with a nutritious breakfast,” said Kardash. “Every morning, educators would fill dozens of backpacks and deliver breakfast in the classroom.”
The results were remarkable.
Attendance escalated, tardiness decreased and behavior referrals were almost non-existent in the morning. Students also received the added benefit of spending more time with their teachers, learning appropriate table and social manners and extra help on assignments.
According to national research, additional benefits of eating breakfast in the classroom include:
- Improved math and reading achievement, better performance on standardized tests, and an improved vocabulary
- Better concentration, alertness, comprehension, and memory
- Less absenteeism and late arrivals plus fewer visits to the school nurse
- Improved eating habits—students consume more fruit, milk, and a wider variety of foods, which leads to lower rates of obesity
Howard Roosa closed its doors this past June and moved its operation to a new campus, Evans School. With a new building, educators needed a different way to deliver breakfast and continue student success.
“We didn’t have enough backpacks to continue our breakfast program and we wanted to have the same level of success at our new building,” said Kardash. “We also wanted to provide better food choices to our kids—such as fresh fruits and vegetables.”
School leaders knew that coolers were the optimal choice. But like most financially burdened schools, funding to purchase the coolers and maintain the program was non-existent. They had to make a tough decision: cancel the Breakfast in the Classroom program—that is until help arrived.
Thanks to a unique partnership between the Evansville Teachers Association and the National Education Association’s Priority Schools Campaign, the two education groups leveraged an existing partnership with JEEP® to purchase coolers on wheels to maintain the “Breakfast in the Classroom” program.
Representatives from the local education association presented more than two dozen coolers to a jam packed gymnasium of students and educators on Thurs., Aug. 4. The coolers will allow Evans School students to begin school with a nutritious breakfast and ready to learn.
“This may seem like a small gift, but this is a gift that goes a long way,” said Keith Gambill, president of the Evansville Teachers Association. “Too many children often miss out on breakfast and start the school day hungry. This program provides students with a healthy meal to start their school day.”