Principals Survey Finds Breakfast After the Bell Makes the Grade in Secondary Schools

Better Nutrition Leading to a Better School Environment

Contact: Jennifer Adach, FRAC, 202-640-1118, jadach@frac.org
Bob Farrace, NASSP, 703-674-5614, farraceb@nassp.org

WASHINGTON, DC – November 10, 2015 – More and more principals across the country are urging others to adopt breakfast after the bell programs, citing higher participation in school breakfast among low-income children and an improved school environment as positive results, according to a new report released today by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

The report, “Breakfast After the Bell: Equipping Students for Academic Success, Secondary School Principals Share What Works” (pdf), surveyed 105 secondary school principals in 67 school districts to get their first-hand take on successful school breakfast programs. School breakfast fights hunger and provides countless educational and health benefits, yet just over half of the low-income children who participate in school lunch eat school breakfast. Principals seeking to improve participation found results by moving breakfast out of the cafeteria and using an alternative method – such as “grab and go” carts from hallways – to serve the meal and integrate breakfast into the school day.

“There are a number of factors as to why breakfast after the bell programs lead to higher participation, especially in secondary schools. At the top of the list is the program’s ability to reduce stigma around who is eating breakfast at school, which becomes more pronounced as children get older,” said Jim Weill, FRAC president. “Principals are telling us that breakfast after the bell programs work and are urging their fellow educators to start up similar programs.”

Other findings from the report include:

  • 82 percent of school principals noted increases in school breakfast participation after introducing the program;
  • 87 percent said they believe other schools should explore launching a similar program; and
  • Overall, principals in schools with breakfast after the bell programs noted an improved school environment with students being more attentive, fewer occurrences of tardiness and absenteeism, fewer disciplinary referrals, and improved reading and math test scores.

While principals are key stakeholders in ensuring the successful implementation of such alternative breakfast service programs, the report noted that cooperation and collaboration of multiple stakeholders – such as teachers, students, and parents – also are necessary for success. Training for staff, gathering feedback from students on menu items, and sending letters to educate parents all paved the way for successful implementation. More than half of principals did not encounter challenges while launching an alternative breakfast program.

“The principal’s primary role is to create the conditions in which student learning can flourish, and we know that hungry and food-insecure kids are distracted from their learning by more basic needs,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “Principals are well situated to address those basic needs and, as the case studies in this report demonstrate, highly effective programs can be implemented fairly easily. We hope more principals will take advantage of the opportunities to implement more robust school breakfast programs.”

The full report is available online.

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About FRAC: The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) is the lead advocacy organization working to end hunger in America through stronger public policies. FRAC’s A Plan of Action to End Hunger in America (pdf) details clear and concrete steps for the nation to take in achieving this goal. To learn more about FRAC, visit www.frac.org. Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/foodresearchandactioncenter or follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/fractweets.

About NASSP: The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of—and voice for—middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States and 35 countries around the world. NASSP’s mission is to connect and engage school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. For more information about NASSP, please visit www.nassp.org.