More than 70 percent of Liberal High School’s student population qualify for free or reduced meals. Yet, only 11 percent of the entire student population was taking advantage of the school’s breakfast program. While we would like to believe that all kids eat a healthy breakfast at home and come to school ready to learn, that’s not reality. Additionally, most high school kids would rather stay in bed as long as possible or choose to socialize with friends before school instead of taking the time to eat breakfast. For some students, buses don’t arrive at the school early enough for them to participate in the breakfast program and for others, they simply aren’t ready to eat until they’ve been awake for a while. Whatever the case, Liberal High’s breakfast program participation was too low and too many kids were turning to vending machines for snacks to get them through the day.
Knowing that something needed to be done, the school nutrition staff secured the support of the principal and a grant from the Midwest Dairy Council to find a way to increase breakfast participation. Staff knew that whatever they did, it had to be fast (kids only had five minute passing periods), would have to be fuss-free and easy to handle since kids would be taking their breakfast to class, would have to include food items that were appealing to students and included yogurt or cheese every day, and were available in a location that was easily accessible to students.
After considering all of the possibilities, school nutrition staff opted to develop a custom “Second Chance Breakfast” kiosk that would be placed in the school’s commons area each morning where students could pick up or purchase a “grab and go breakfast bag.” Each bag includes one of the following: A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sausage biscuit or muffin plus Go-Gurt® or string cheese and milk, juice or apple slices – all of which are easy to handle on the go or in the classroom.
The “Grab-n-Go” breakfast station is in Liberal high school hallways after first period, so kids can pick them up on their way to the next class. The concept has increased breakfast participation (and students’ overall nutrition) significantly.
The school even engaged students in helping to promote the program. Graphic Arts students designed breakfast posters and the Video Production class developed a Second Chance Breakfast promotional video, which was aired every day as part of the School Announcements the week leading up to the program’s launch.
The Second Chance Breakfast program is offered at the end of the first hour through the beginning of the second hour and is intended to cater to those students who didn’t eat breakfast at home or in the school cafeteria. In addition to the kiosk being available in the commons area, the school opened up a serving line in the school cafeteria where students could pick up their “grab and go bag” and take to class. Students who chose to participate in the program were advised that in order to ensure the program’s success they could not be late for class, needed to eat quickly and quietly, and must clean up after themselves – leaving no trash behind.
The program launched in February with the nutrition staff serving 28 meals at the kiosk on the first day. That number grew exponentially each day that followed and within three weeks, more than 200 meals were being served and within eight weeks, nearly 300 were served.
Needless to say, the Second Chance Breakfast Program at Liberal High School has been a huge hit with students and teachers alike. There have been no complaints of students being tardy, leaving a mess or the program being a distraction to learning. In fact, plans are already in the works to open up a third “grab and go” location.
Congratulations to the nutrition staff at Liberal High School for their commitment to the nutritional needs of their students and their innovative solution!