A few years back, Elkins Middle School, located in West Virginia, made a significant change in the way they served breakfast to its students. Instead of having students walk through long lines in the cafeteria, they can now select a grab and go breakfast which they can eat on the move and even in their classrooms.
Elkins Middle is one of 100 schools in the state which now offers students grab and go food breakfasts. And through a unique program, the grab and go food is provided free to about 40 percent of the students.
The program has been credited with producing some unexpected positive results such as:
- A 15 percent reduction in school suspensions
- Improved student energy and class participation
- Fewer discipline issues
- An increase in attendance and a decrease in tardiness.
Before the plan began, school administrators said students often started their school day grumpy, tired, and hungry, all of which made many disorderly throughout the daytime. This often occurred because some school buses arrived late after the cafeteria had closed for the morning breakfast.
Since most of the students did not receive breakfast before leaving for school, this meant they had to wait three hours or more for lunch, making lunch their first meal of the day. Not the best way for anyone to start their day. However, now that the grab and go breakfast is available even if the cafeteria has closed, most students can grab something to eat to start their day off right.
“We’re trying to eliminate [reasons for not having] breakfast, and that’s making the difference,” says Kristie Blower of the state’s Office of Child Nutrition. "Instead of only offering breakfast early in the morning when students first arrive, [with the grab and go breakfast] they don't have to miss out if their bus is late or if they want to socialize.”
The biggest challenge to implementing the grab and go breakfast program and having it delivered to the 100 schools participating is getting acceptance from the teachers and administrators supporting it. This is possibly the result of old thinking about grab and go food as being a food item of lesser quality. “It’s a change in thinking about grab and go,” adds Blower.
Today’s grab and go food is much tastier and nutritious. Consumers can now expect to find grab and go food not only in schools, but high-end hotels, organic grocery stores, convention centers, airports, and many other places of business. Along with being tasty and nutritious, it is often made with organic food items. Further, when properly and clearly labeled, teachers, administrators and students know exactly what is in the items they are selecting, building confidence in the quality of the food.
And with the introduction of next-generation labeling technologies, the entire labeling process can be centralized for participating schools, allowing for labeling changes to be made remotely when necessary..
Blower adds that as word about the positive results of the grab and go breakfasts has spread throughout the state, there has been a substantial increase in participation rates among other schools. Now at least one school in each county in the state is implementing a similar program. "Our elementary schools are seeing wonderful results,” she says. “We're seeing a lot fewer trips to the school nurse for tummy aches. This is helping students sustain and concentrate longer."
And some parents are now praising the program as well. "As a parent, I can speak from my experience. My son was one of those kids who didn't want to eat first thing in the morning but was hungry by the time class started. The grab and go program is changing the course of kids' days and will become a permanent part of their life. It's the most important meal of the day."
For more information on grab and go food, next-generation labeling terminals and technologies, contact a DayMark representative here.
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