From 20 Pilot Programs to 70: Breakfast in the Classroom in LAUSD, by Melissa Infusino
In a three-part series, Melissa Infusino of the LA Fund reports on the introduction and progress of Food for Thought, a three-year "Breakfast in the Classroom" campaign to ensure that over half a million students in the Los Angeles Unified School District eat a nutritious breakfast every morning. This is her second story. Read her first here.
What started as a Breakfast in the Classroom pilot program for 20 schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has now expanded to 70 schools, since the launch of a three-year campaign to ensure that over half a million students in the district eat a nutritious breakfast every day. By the end of the 2013 school year, 300 schools in LAUSD will have Breakfast in the Classroom programming.
Collaborators in this campaign (LAUSD, the LA Fund, and nine nonprofits) have selected a Principal Advisors team made up of seven retired LAUSD principals, led by former LAUSD Local District Superintendent, Jean Brown. The Principal Advisors know the inner workings of the district, have worked in many of our schools, and have relationships with the principals who are rolling out Breakfast in the Classroom during the first year of this campaign. These advisors provide essential support, helping principals and teachers introduce this meal program into their classrooms during instructional time.
Principal advisors reach out to each new Breakfast in the Classroom school and offer to meet with the principal and participate in program training. They are able to provide logistical support on things like scheduling changes, parent engagement, and custodial shortages. This team works in tandem with the LAUSD Food Services Division, meeting regularly with Division leadership and Area Food Service Supervisors, to support their work and help communicate with teachers and administration.
The LAUSD Food Services Division is one of the best in the nation. The success of its undertaking – the management of a gargantuan transition for 300 elementary school breakfast programs – will be measured by an increase in student participation, from a 29 percent pre-school day participation rate to an expected 80 percent participation rate. The beginning step in this transition is a site visit six weeks prior to the implementation date, in order to assess cafeteria equipment and staffing needs. Once the logistics and equipment issues are resolved, the Food Services Division schedules trainings at the school sites. The Principal Advisors join these meetings, sometimes bringing community volunteers who are trained as well.
Jean Brown and her team offer to take reluctant teachers and principals to schools where breakfast is already happening. Seeing the model first-hand hugely benefits their understanding of the program’s impact on the students. In person, the school staff can ask questions and voice concerns to their colleagues, to learn how they are making it work and what benefits they are seeing. Implementation can be tough in the beginning, but we are seeing teachers and administration change their minds in support of the program.
One of the immediate benefits of Breakfast in the Classroom programming is the energy level in the classroom. Students come in, sit down, and share a meal together. They are noticeably engaged, and their time spent doing homework, playing classical music, learning conversation skills and manners, and even absorbing health education concepts, is focused and productive. We are also seeing tardy rates go down and attendance start to go up.
LAUSD is an ideal partner for the LA Fund and the nine other nonprofit partners that have teamed up to address school nutrition and positive solutions to hunger and obesity challenges. LAUSD has banned the sale of junk food, sodas, and trans fats from its lunch menu. The district has also introduced new breakfast items, created in collaboration with local bakeries, including sweet potato pancakes and an oatmeal blueberry muffin. Breakfast offerings include more whole fruit and less fruit juice, as well as two to three warm items each week.
As campaign collaborators, we recognize that we are not the teachers who have to spend time and energy implementing successful breakfast programming, and that the incorporation of Breakfast in the Classroom is a big ask for our educators. But we also see a crucial connection between this program and the effect it has on student health and academic success. We are tremendously grateful to all the instructors that are adopting this program and taking it to new and exciting levels as they introduce health, education, and community into breakfast time.