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FWPSProud: Breakfast in the Classroom Program is Producing Positive Outcomes

FWPSProud: Breakfast in the Classroom Program is Producing Positive Outcomes
A Rainier View Elementary scholar enjoys breakfast in the morning at her desk.

 

Since the start of the 2023-24 school year, students at Rainier View Elementary have been eating breakfast in class. This change came after adopting the Breakfast in the Classroom program, and the shift has brought positive results.  

Rainier View Needed to Address Challenges with Access to Breakfast and On-Time Attendance.

“This came about because the school was having concerns about getting kids through the breakfast line in time to start school on time. So many students participated in breakfast and there was only one cashier, so it was a big challenge,” explained Alisha Barlow, FWPS Executive Director of Nutrition Services. Barlow said when the school presented the idea of starting the program, her team was excited to support the implementation and pilot year.  

Rainier View’s student population is richly racially and culturally diverse, with 72% students of color. Seventy-six percent of students at the school qualify for free and reduced-price meals. Given the popularity and high demand for breakfast among students before school begins, a service bottleneck was inevitable. 

“Last year, many students didn’t attempt to eat because of the crowding and wait time,” shared the school’s principal, Kara Maphosa. The congestion created a ripple effect, causing many students to be late for class. 

 

After Moving Breakfast to Classrooms, the School Has Seen Positive Outcomes.

Since adopting the change, participation in the breakfast program has climbed significantly and the school has seen other positive outcomes as well.

Students file into class in the morning for breakfast.

“Their participation used to be just over 210. Now, it’s like 350 to almost 400 some days – it's a lot higher participation,” Barlow shared. She went on to say, “The principal shared it seems like behavioral issues have decreased in the morning. It’s a much calmer environment, the students get to go to the classroom, sit down, and eat breakfast while the teacher starts their SEL lesson.” 

In the morning, students report to their classrooms, and a designated class member goes to the cafeteria to pick up a dolly of the day’s breakfast spread, an assortment of options including mini maple waffles, breakfast bars, cheese omelets, cereal, fruit, boxed milk, juice, and more. In the classroom, students select their meals and can eat at their desks. This provides a slow start to the school day, allowing students to connect during a teacher-led social-emotional learning (SEL) lesson. 

Desiree, a fifth-grade student, is happy about a more organized and calm breakfast experience. “It’s not so crowded in the classroom,” she shared. Regarding learning, she liked doing Second Step SEL exercises while eating breakfast. 

“It’s really good!” Frankie, another 5th grade student, chimed in. Fifth-grader Abdi enjoys having time to speak with his friends. “I get to talk to people a lot... It’s nice. I really like it.” 

Students enjoy breakfast at their desk as their teacher leads an SEL lesson.

Madeleine Brost, a 3rd grade teacher at Rainier View, is a strong advocate of the program. “I’ve really enjoyed it. The kids seem to like it,” she shared. "I’ve seen more kids getting to school on time, in my classroom at least, more kids have more energy throughout the day with less complaints of being hungry before lunchtime, and more productivity in the morning hours of worktime.”  

Brost also shared a response to teachers who may be skeptical of the program, commenting, “I’d say, look at it as an opportunity to spend more intimate time with your kids in the morning. You get to hear about what they're doing, their families. Look at it as an opportunity to bond and bring your classroom together.” 

Fifth-grade teacher Troy Milles has had similar outcomes. He shared, “I’ve seen more students eating breakfast. It’s been a lot calmer in the classroom and students are all working together.” 

Students connect with classmates and their teacher over breakfast.

 

Rainier View Looks Forward to Long-Term Results.

The Breakfast in the Classroom program is a well-known national program and a version of Breakfast After the Bell, which requires any public school with at least 70% or more students eligible for free or reduced-priced meals to extend breakfast availability after school begins. Research has shown schools offering breakfast in the classroom have higher rates of breakfast participation. Additionally, school breakfast participation is linked to several positive impacts, such as improved dietary intake, decreased risk of food insecurity, protection against childhood obesity and other negative health outcomes, and improved student academic performance, student behavior, and attendance.  

Over time, the school will review data to evaluate the full impact of the program, but for now, Principal Maphosa is optimistic about the positive improvements this program has brought to Rainier View Elementary and remains hopeful for more benefits that help students thrive. Already, she noted increased on-time attendance and says that the school feels much calmer. She also shared that students have expressed the class feels like a family and they’re happy they don’t have to wait in a long line. 

Rainier View is grateful to United Way of King County (UWKC) for their partnership in making this launch year a success. With UWKC support, the school was able to purchase additional ovens to support cooking more food, secure dollies to transport meals to and from the classroom and implement new ways to store milk.  

Any school that meets the Breakfast After the Bell criteria can implement the Breakfast in the Classroom program. FWPS plans to expand the program to additional schools next year.  

To learn more about Breakfast in the Classroom and other meal programs in FWPS, visit www.fwps.org/NutritionServices