In 2014, 15.3 million American children lived in households that struggled against hunger. According to the Food Research and Action Center, behavior, emotional and academic problems are more prevalent among children who are hungry. Although the Federal School Breakfast Program provides free breakfast to underserved children, statistics have shown that only a little over half the kids are eating it.

Feeding kids in class

Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom is a national initiative that takes the model of free school breakfast a step further—by providing it directly in the classroom. And it makes a big difference.

Just ask Dr. Dana Bedden, the superintendent of Richmond Public Schools, where 40 percent of students live in poverty. Although the schools in his district offer the free federal breakfast program, Bedden didn’t see real results until working with the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom.

“For many of our schools, it helped with students getting to class on time, being in the classroom with the teacher, ready to go,” he says. “We were also able to make a smaller supervision model out of it—so that you don’t have a large group sitting at a cafeteria, where you see more incidences of discipline.”

“It helped create a safe, healthy teaching and learning environment for our students, but it also got to the idea of trying to create more incentives to kick off the day towards instruction,” he explains.

“‘Often times, in Title 1 schools, kids don’t get the opportunity to sit down and have meals with family members.’”

A more enjoyable morning

Tim Foster, the principal of Cochran Elementary in the Jefferson County Public School District in Kentucky, had a similar experience with the program.

“When I started as principal at Cochran six years ago, our school was second to last in accountability—ranked 732 out of 733 schools in the state,” he says. “We saw a lot of our problems with discipline happened particularly in the morning. Children would get off the bus and run to the cafeteria, it was really disorganized, it took a lot of man power for us to get the kids from the buses to the cafeteria and then to monitor their behavior. They would throw food, and there were all kinds of issues.

“When Breakfast in the Classroom rolled out in my second year—we were the pilot school in the district—we loved it from the very first day,” he continues. “By 9:00, every home room had the breakfast ready to go for the kids. It’s completely changed our morning. Children are engaged immediately with instruction”

Perks of eating socially

“One thing that I really like is it gives our classes the opportunity to treat kids like family,” Foster says. “Often times, in Title 1 schools, kids don’t get the opportunity to sit down and have meals with family members. Now our classrooms turn into families. Some teachers put on classical music or show Kid President videos or have the children write in their journals.

“The kids look forward to their breakfast. It’s truly amazing what we have seen here. And I will say since implementing the program, in four short years, we have moved up 400 spots from second to last in the state,” he exclaims. “We are now considered a proficient school.”