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Alternative School Breakfast Grab-n-Go Model Help Students

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  This guest post was written by Superintendent Dan Decker of Neosho School R-5 District (MO) reflecting on the first year of alternative school breakfast implementation during the 2015-16 school year. Neosho School District is part of AASA’s School Breakfast Community of Practice, an initiative funded by the Walmart Foundation. This article was originally published in the Neosho Daily News.

  By Dan Decker, Superintendent, Neosho R-5 School District (MO)

dan decker
 (Pictured L-R) Dan Decker, Superintendent, Neosho School District; Angela Collier, Senior Manager, Corporate Affairs, Walmart Foundation; and Kelly Beckwith, Project Director, AASA at a school breakfast site visit at December 2015.

 Good morning, Wildcat Nation. It looks like spring may be here to stay with warmer temperatures and everything turning green.

This time of year brings a great deal of excitement to the school scene. As temperatures warm up, students are counting down the days to summer break. For teachers and administrators, this time of year brings the stress of testing and completion of learning goals for the year.

Before we know it, the 2015-16 school year will be finished and it will be time to look ahead and plan for the 2016-17 school year.

This year has been a great one for many reasons, but one that stands out for me is that it was our district’s first year of providing universal free breakfast to our students through the Grab-n-Go Breakfast model. This wonderful opportunity was made possible through a grant the district received from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).

Our school breakfast team spent [a few days in mid-April] in meetings in North Carolina with the AASA administration to determine the effectiveness of our program in Neosho. Through the efforts of many on the Neosho School District team, we have seen a breakfast participation increase ranging from 50 percent to 75 percent in our students.

We also have seen reduced visits to the nurse for stomachaches and a decrease in student discipline, especially in morning classes. We will continue to collect data and analyze the program to ensure we make it the best it can be for all Neosho students.

When this grant application was made known to me, my first thought was, “Awesome! There are people out there who realize the importance of nutrition in learning and are willing to put money toward it.”

Countless studies have been conducted in the past few years concerning how hunger not only affects learning, but also discipline and other factors that students encounter throughout their day. If we can get students fed in the morning, it will prepare them for a successful day where they can concentrate on their education rather than a hungry stomach.

Unfortunately, regardless of how much we’d like it to work, the traditional breakfast plan alone just doesn’t address all of the needs. It’s no surprise that we have students who rely on school meals as their only source of nutrition each day.

Many of those students also struggle with attendance, tardiness and a lack of stability that doesn’t encourage healthy habits. The traditional breakfast plan also forces students to choose between valued socialization time in the morning hours or eating a nutritional breakfast.

This grant has provided an opportunity to have an alternative breakfast program in the district that gives us the means to address student hunger at another level, plus it will move us one step closer to removing loopholes in our efforts to help students in this area. We can’t expect students to put education at the top of their list when their basic needs aren’t being met.

AASA awarded 10 grants across the country. After implementation of the Grab-and-Go breakfast model, data such as attendance, tardies, discipline, nurse visits, ISS/OSS and academic achievement is collected for reporting. AASA directors complete site visits. These visits may or may not be scheduled.

Grab-and-Go breakfasts are packaged in plastic bags for students to pick up on their way to class. Grab-and-Go meals consist of cold and hot meals. Students are given 15 to 20 minutes during class to eat and are responsible for the disposal of their trash.

As we continue to move ahead at Neosho School District with the mantra of “what is best for kids” on our minds, this program definitely fits.

 

 


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