Preparing and delivering a fresh, nutritious breakfast to 63 classrooms for 1,366 students, their teachers, and administrators before the bell for first period might sound like a major challenge, but Rashundra Thomas and her staff of 10 cafeteria workers at Ann Richards Middle School have it down to a science.
Starting at 5 a.m., the cafeteria staff arrive and turn on the ovens to begin preparing the warm food options that include items like chicken sausage sandwiches, chicken chorizo tacos, pancakes, tamales, and French toast sticks. The menu also includes 100 percent fruit juices, a fresh fruit or veggie, and milk. Once everything is prepared, the cafeteria staff load their breakfast bags, place them on rolling carts and head down the hallways dropping off the bags at each classroom in the three-story building. Teachers oversee the distribution of breakfast and encourage students to take advantage of the free meal.
Breakfast in the Classroom began in Dallas ISD in 2010 as a pilot program in 12 elementary schools, and was implemented at all elementary schools in the 2013-2014 school year. This year, the focus is on rolling out the effort to all middle schools. A handful of middle and high schools have already adopted the meal program. It’s estimated that 90,700 district students in grades PK-12 will start their day with breakfast this school year.Students at Richards now look forward to receiving breakfast, and teachers can see a definite difference in how students learn and behave when they routinely receive the all-important first meal of the day. Sixth-grade teacher Tanisha Clark said the day goes a lot smoother and students are ready to learn once they get breakfast. “I can see a noted difference in their behavior and attitude, and they’re a lot more calm and ready to learn.” She said that’s especially true of students who take medication. “It’s a lot easier to transition into the lesson than when kids came in cold.” She agrees with the research showing that students who routinely eat breakfast are more focused and ready to learn, have fewer discipline problems, and are generally better students.In preparation to get the program started at middle schools, Jennifer de Hoog, nutrition specialist with Food and Child Nutrition Services, said members of the nutrition staff are meeting with middle school principals to explain the benefits and requirements of the program. Once they see the results of students’ approaching the school day fed and ready to learn, she said the principals inevitably are ready to get on board with Breakfast in the Classroom.