Free breakfast served in classrooms, not cafeteria, increases consumption dramatically

One Connecticut elementary school with a high-level of homeless children has found tremendous success in getting their students to eat a free breakfast by serving it in the classroom  instead of in the cafeteria.

New Haven public school Wexler/Grant School is home to about 400 kids in grades pre-K to 8 and the has the highest number of homeless students in the district.

From The Huffington Post:

“In the first month in which kids started eating breakfast in their classrooms instead, the number of kids eating shot up. The average number of breakfasts consumed rose from 198 in February to 346 in March, according to Sarah Maver, school wellness dietitian for New Haven Public Schools.”

“That means about 91 percent of kids are now eating breakfast, according to her data. (There are 407 kids in the school; about 94 percent show up each day.)”

“We definitely are very happy” with the quick results, she said.

The article goes on to describe how one of the teachers, Michele Vaiuso, makes sure she saves breakfast for students who are late. She also sets aside some cereal for a slow eater to finish later so they wouldn’t be hungry. She notices which students aren’t eating and encourages them or pairs them with good eaters. She says she definitely can see an energy increase for some students when they do have breakfast in their tummies.

I adore how loving this teacher is. I just want to hug her and thank her for being so caring to her students. I would totally be that way too making sure all my little people were taken care of.

The article doesn’t say why they think consumption increases so much when breakfast is served in the classroom versus the lunchroom. Are the kids more comfortable in their classroom? Are they afraid they will be late or miss something if they go to the cafeteria? Is it intimidating or embarrassing to be seen in there? I wish a theory was at least offered why it’s more successful. But I hope other schools take notice and try it!

What do you make of this dramatic improvement in consumption by serving in the classroom instead of the lunchroom? Would your school try this? (Send this article to your principal.)

35 comments Add your comment

jarvis

April 18th, 2012
12:33 pm

Put free food in my office and I’ll eat it. Put free food down on the first floor….prolly won’t make the effort.
Same concept.

Augusta

April 18th, 2012
1:01 pm

I don’t think I would want a bunch of children eating in the classroom, unless there was a designated area…….kids are messy and I wouldn’t want that mess in my classroom…..plus, it would draw bugs….and ants…..and you never get rid of ants….

catlady

April 18th, 2012
1:02 pm

My daughter’s hall co school does this. (not sure why–not a Title 1 school)

Patrick

April 18th, 2012
1:04 pm

I think it’s because if the breakfast is served in the cafeteria, the students will feel rushed to eat it, then have to get to their classes before a certain time, lest they be counted “tardy”. This can cause upset stomachs, and possibly the children getting sick, thereby the program being counterproductive. By having the breakfast in the classrooms, the students will feel more relaxed, and will take their time eating the meal, enjoy it, and digest it, making for fuller and happier tummies, and happier and more alert students.

Kat

April 18th, 2012
1:16 pm

A lot of kids get free breakfasts at the school, so perhaps there is less “shame” since they see that “everyone else is doing it too?”

RJ

April 18th, 2012
1:21 pm

We’ve been doing this a few years in my school. I agree with Patrick, they don’t feel rushed. The homeroom teachers hate it by the way. I’m not one so I can’t speak as to how effective it is. From what I gather, they don’t like the food in their classrooms. We have a school with 99% free or reduced lunch, so everyone gets a free breakfast. What I don’t like is that they no longer get a hot meal. It’s usually cereal, bagel bars, or biscuits. They used to get a more hearty breakfast. The leftovers are usually kept by the teachers to give to students to take home if they want. If they don’t keep the food it MUST be thrown away!!!

Sam

April 18th, 2012
1:23 pm

I think it’s great! I’m sure the increase in kids eating breakfast is due to feeling more comfortable in the classroom with their fellow students. So many kids don’t get meals at home so it’s awesome that this school has found a solution to not only increase the children eating, but also likely increase attention and productivity.

Augusta

April 18th, 2012
1:44 pm

I don’t understand sending a kid off to school without breakfast. Breakfast is THE MOST important meal….and it’s so very easy to make, and eat at home, or in the car, etc.

Make a bunch of pancakes on the weekends, and freeze them in stacks of 3. I “thaw” them when I get up, and we nuke them before we leave the house, and the kids can eat them in the car, or on the way to the bus.

A bowl of cereal takes approximately 10 minutes to prepare, and eat.

Pop tarts
cereal bars
frozen waffles/pancakes, etc.
FRUIT

Two of my kids don’t like eating first thing in the morning, so they get granola bars to nibble on later. I usually fix something for breakfast for the family every day.

shaggy

April 18th, 2012
1:56 pm

OK, since we no longer feed our children breakfast, but leave it to the nanny state, let’s just run with this idea to multitask.
How about we have the kids also defecate right in the classroom…just set a port-a-potty right there in the corner? Then, the administrators could be assigned dumping duties when their schools CRCT scores dip too low…

as

April 18th, 2012
2:05 pm

The first line of this reads, “One Connecticut elementary school with a high-level of homeless children” I doubt that pancakes made over the weekend is an option for these children. Nor do I expect that they are overly concerned with making a mess in the classroom. They are just hungry little kids.

A

April 18th, 2012
2:09 pm

@Augusta, I think the point the article was making is some of these kids don’t have the means to have a good breakfast. They are homeless and/or poor, so even if there is someone at home with all the time in the world, if the pantry is bare what can they do?

HB

April 18th, 2012
2:11 pm

“Breakfast is THE MOST important meal….and it’s so very easy to make, and eat at home…”

Augusta, the school in the article is trying to feed kids who don’t have homes.

shaggy

April 18th, 2012
2:15 pm

The janitors will love this “trend”.
I remember when I was in school, we used to be practically forced to drink a carton of milk in the classroom and take a nap. We had this one kid that threw up practically every day…chocolate milk day was especially bad on his….reflexive instinct. I was always REAL glad that I didn’t sit near him and was by a window.
The janitor would come in and put the pencil eraser looking stuff on it, while we pretended to be asleep, and then, he would clean it up. When it was wake up time, the boy always acted like nothing happened, and he could never understand why no one wanted to hang around with him, and us saying he smelled bad.
Last I heard of him, he owned….you guessed it, a successful cleaning service, specializing in trauma clean up.

oneofeach4me

April 18th, 2012
2:32 pm

@Augusta ~ my son eats oatmeal before he is dropped at school.. but my daughter who is a 5th grader takes WAY too much time to get ready in the am and is running almost everyday to catch the bus. And don’t tell me to wake her up earlier because I have and it doesn’t make a difference whether she gets up at 6am or 6:30.. she still is late. So.. that said.. she eats bfast at school and actually prefers it that way. Then again.. she is the one who doesn’t like to eat right away. As long as she EATS bfast, why does it matter whether it’s at home or at school?

I say if it works… let them eat in the classroom. They probably just feel more comfortable. And okay, so food can bring bugs… well.. so does all that stuff that they eat during those classroom parties (holiday, end of year, etc.). How about making that a daily chore and assigning a different kid to the job each day. Most kids I know LOVE to be called on to help out a teacher no matter WHAT the task is!!

They are kids people. And teacher’s should be more concerned about the welfare of the kids in their care rather than the bugs they may or may not get.

Augusta

April 18th, 2012
2:34 pm

My bad, I didn’t read “homeless”…..

mystery poster

April 18th, 2012
3:23 pm

My guess:
They don’t have to get there early to eat breakfast in the classroom like they would if they ate in the cafeteria.

JOD

April 18th, 2012
3:52 pm

I think the improvement has more to do with not having to eat in front of others than anything else. No doubt many of these kids are keenly aware of being ‘different’ and maybe they feel shame in having to eat free breakfast. Being able to eat in a classroom may make them feel less embarrassed, even at an elementary age.

I think this teacher and this program are wonderful. It doesn’t sound like this is an entitlement issue like we discuss so often here, where kids have Air Jordans while getting free lunch. This sounds like the kids who really need it, so BRAVO to the school district and teachers.

Biff Wellington

April 18th, 2012
3:57 pm

At Edwards private school they have an omelet bar in homeroom. Its nice to be rich!

K's Mom

April 18th, 2012
4:13 pm

As someone who eats breakfast about an hour after I get up and it is generally cold because heavy breakfasts make me feel yucky all day, I am gllad this program exists. I think if these kids in need are getting a hot lunch then a cold breakfast that they will actually eat is great.

Becky

April 18th, 2012
4:39 pm

Think this is a great thing to offer..My boy eats breakfast (most days) before we leave for school, the girl is happy to wait on lunch..

mom2alex&max

April 18th, 2012
4:43 pm

This whole thing makes me so sad.It is so sad that there are people out there that don’t have enough money to feed their children breakfast.

iggy

April 18th, 2012
5:01 pm

Free? Free you say? How can this be free? What sad is there are so many adults out there that are so selfish and sorry that they refuse to care for their own children.

These children should be taken, parents tossed into jail and kids made a ward of the State.

paco

April 18th, 2012
5:05 pm

Why not also feed them free lunch, dinner, midnight snack, provide living and sleeping quarters, bicycles, toys, candy, cars, clothing, etc.

Yes the nanny State is such a wonderful idea.

Denise

April 18th, 2012
5:09 pm

@oneofeach4me – are you my mother? :-) I am just like your daughter. No matter what time I wake up, I’m going to be late. :-) I bring breakfast to work and eat it at my desk as I check emails and get situated.

I think this is a good program, whether the kids are homeless or not, but especially because the kids are homeless. I am happy that they are getting to school in the first place, but secondly, are getting cared for at school. Sometimes care supercedes “responsibility”. No it is not a school’s responsibility to take care of other folks’ kids but it sure feels good to read about people showing true care for their students.

Judge Smails

April 18th, 2012
5:32 pm

Well, it only took till 5:01 for someone to bring up the cold hard fact…that these kids are being “raised” by good for nothing “parents” who make very bad choices in life and leave their children to suffer the consequences. Yes, feed them and do it well, just not in the classroom.

Why not invite their “parents” in for a free breakfast too. I’m sure they could use a good meal to start their “busy” day!

newblogger

April 18th, 2012
6:19 pm

These are children for goodness sake! They didn’t ask to be brought into this world and I’m sure they didn’t ask to be homeless. It’s easy to look on at those less fortunate from afar and be snide about providing meals and such. I teach in a Title I school and we have many children who come to school hungry and go home not knowing if they will go to bed hungry. Is it frustrating? Yes. Could some of their parents do better? Yes. Should we blame them? Good lord NO! It’s not an easy thing to know where to draw the line. Sometimes giving things away encourages people to continue to expect things to be given away and for some it is a chosen way of life. But don’t blame the children. They are just hungry and want to be fed, literally and figuratively. Yes, you can eat in my classroom…any time you want.

mom2alex&max

April 18th, 2012
8:48 pm

newblogger: It’s interesting that you said that. I was discussing with some people on FB the whole thing about drug testing potential welfare recipients. I am pretty liberal, but I have an old dear friend who’s a old hippy (and I mean that in the best possible way, she really is a wonderful woman) and has really liberal views. Her comment was: So if the mom/dad fails the test and doesn’t get welfare the kids go hungry then?”

While I think she made a good point (and so do you), the problem is that we have to stop SOMEWHERE. I don’t want any child to go hungry, or without a bed at night, or without a pen and paper to study and learn. But on the other hand, people are just VERY quick to turn around and beg and feel entitled and we help them, because, well, it isn’t the kid’s fault that mom is a lazy bum and spends all the money on pedicures and cell phones.

At some point, we as a society absolutely must consider the plain cold fact that some people shouldn’t be having children and if they are, they should be taken away. I want to know why some people cannot afford $3 for a box of cereal to feed their children breakfast. I’ve been BROKE many times. But I have done what I needed to do to feed my children. I have worked crappy jobs and I have worked miracles with pantry items. But I did it.

Those days (thank God) are behind me now. Still, I am almost out of sympathy.

homeschooler

April 18th, 2012
10:47 pm

@mom2..exactly. And let’s not forget that many, many who get free lunch and breakfast also get food stamps. Double dipping much? I have been in the homes of the poorest people for years and years. They are not going to let their children starve. They expect the government, school, foodstamps etc.. to feed their children, not because they are moochers but because that is what they know. It doesn’t cross their mind to make their kids breakfast with the foodstamps they receive because, the school will feed them. Take away the free lunch and you will be surprised to see that people can and will feed their own kids. They feed them every summer and they feed them dinner. If they do not feed them dinner as “newblogger” suggested, that family should be reported to DFCS. Mandated reporters must report cases of neglect or abuse within 24 hrs (as a couple of Tapp Middle School faculty recently learned the hard way)Not feeding your children is neglect.
I’ve always though that school lunches should be purchased with foodstamps or that foodstamps should be lowered for a child who attends school and eats breakfast and lunch on the government’s dime.
I know this sounds harsh and I actually think this particular article is wonderful in terms of the teachers trying to make sure the kids are cared for. It’s the idea that teachers need to be the ones to raise these kids that bothers me.
I suspect the kids eat better in the classroom because there is a lot of distracting activity in the cafeteria. Once in the room where it is quiet, the kids probably focus more on their food. Great. I just wonder where it stops. I can actually see us getting to a point where kids who stay late at ASP are fed dinner. I bet it’s coming, just wait.
I want to be clear that I do care deeply about these kids. I am also one of few who believe that these parents care deeply also. They CAN feed their children. They just don’t have to so, why should they.

also @ mom2..I am totally against the drug screening for benefits. Great concept but a big damn waste of money. People will pass those tests right and left. They state will not randomly screen. They will screen at the application for benefits and at reviews. Anybody can pass a urine screen. What is so frustrating is that DFCS can’t afford to pay for drug screens for CPS to determine if a parent is using and therefore a danger to their child but they are going to test everyone who gets foodstamps? This was just a move by the Republicans to make the conservatives in GA happy. (and I’m a pretty big Republican). Anybody who knows how DFCS and drug screening companies operate would be against this useless law.

shaggy

April 19th, 2012
7:03 am

Bring back the “Oliver Twist” workhouses. Then, we could finally compete with the Chinese in manufacturing cheap Walmart stuff that you all buy in brimming to the top, SUV/mini-van loads, with your little happy family cartoon stickers on the back windshield…I am betting these happy family cartoon stickers are made in China and not by a happy Chinese cartoon family. One thing for sure, the happy family cartoons are obnoxiously “cute”…kind of like soccer ball stickers.

After all, that is about how the Chinese do it, and you are MORE than happy to buy and continue supporting THAT society. Why not here?
I don’t believe the Chinese give them free breakfast, healthcare, or social services of any kind come to think of it. Well they do have access to healthcare of a sort…shops full of bear gall bladders-drained by catheter from living-tortured for life bears, tiger parts-wild ones are especially good for erectile dysfunction-so the myth goes, fresh cut rhino horn-still dripping blood from being macheted off of a rhino, and wonderful shark fin-hacked off of a live shark before it is dumped like garbage back into the ocean.
Keep buying that “Rolled Back”.

tracey

April 19th, 2012
9:13 am

I can remember being on free and reduced lunches when I was a child. My mom didn’t get food stamps, or medicaid for us, as she had a job and made 9 dollars a month too much. That didn’t include the child support she didn’t get. We had lunch tickets, and separate line. There were teachers that made fun of us, and that rolled down hill and so some of the kids would follow in turn. I can see letting the kids eat somewhere a little more private. Especially, if they are made to feel ashamed and embarrassed. I don’t begrudge a child food.

tracey

April 19th, 2012
9:17 am

@Homeschooler – There are sorry parents out there, on that I have no illusions. There are also a lot of parents who have to make decisions about having a roof over their children’s heads and buying groceries. They would dearly love to be able to take care of their children ‘properly’, but don’t have the means. I grew up poor, I was never hungry though. We ate lots of hot dogs and a dime a box macaroni and cheese, but we ate. Getting a free lunch during the week, didn’t make me a free-loader. I just meant that my mom had one less thing to worry about.

iggy

April 19th, 2012
9:44 am

Today is the poor poor children. Tomorrow it will be the poor poor adults. Address the problem not the symptom.

☺☻Have A Smile!

April 19th, 2012
9:57 am

Tomorrow it will be the poor poor adults. Address the problem not the symptom.

+1

catlady

April 19th, 2012
12:17 pm

Let me detail the food that is available here: free breakfast, lunch, and afterschool snack (if the kid is staying for free tutoring,) free snack backpack (with plastic food, like fruit roll ups) for the weekend snacks, free lunch program for all kids to age 18, no income qualifiers, at various sites around the county all summer, one place has free lunch meals year round 5 days a week for any person, The food bank and two churches have free food giveawys each month. Food stamps, and for the elderly free meals delivered. In addition, you can use food stamps to buy seeds for a garden, and multiply your food dollars for some effort on your part. There is no excuse for kids not being fed around here. Of course, I think some folks still manage to convert their food stamp money into cash by selling it for pennies on the dollar.

2 years ago I took my excess organically grown food to the food bank for give-away. I have a regular group of elderly women that I bring food to, but I had waayy too much at this point. I got thee an hour early and what did I see–obese, white folks stnading around and smoking under the no-smoking signs, waiting for the place to open. I took the fresh beans and squash in, and was told that “folks who come here don’t want fresh stuff, they just want to open a can.” After that, I take my food to the elderly center, where the folks are quite happy to have fresh food to take home. They don’t even care that it is organic! Sometimes they do question me about the varieties, since I don’t bring white half-runner beans and yellow crooked-neck squash. LOL
I get real impatient over how some folks use their money for things other than taking care of their families–like cell phones, cable TV, smoking, and drinking.

Yolanda Weiner

April 19th, 2012
3:11 pm

Hmmm…Based on the “free breakfast” count I would guess that 99% of children in Clayton County are homeless. Or perhaps some little fibs are being told…Hmmm.