Get ready to make some noise and celebrate the many benefits of the School Breakfast Program!

On Thursday, March 8, during National School Breakfast Week, advocates, policymakers, and schools will join Maryland Hunger Solutions and D.C. Hunger Solutions in Hear the Crunch! The annual event, where students, educators, policymakers, and many others in D.C. and Maryland are asked to photograph themselves biting an apple on the same day. Hear the Crunch highlights the important role school breakfast plays in ensuring that children have access to the nutritious food they need for their health and learning.

This year, Maryland Hunger Solutions is sharing a free one-hour lesson plan, “The Maryland Hunger Gap,” to provide context and background for participation in Maryland’s Hear the Crunch event. It includes a detailed lesson plan, PowerPoint slides, and a student handout. As part of the lesson plan, students will consider how to define hunger and food insecurity, explore interventions designed to improve food security, and take a stand on the merits of expanding school breakfast programs that offer breakfast at no charge to all students.

D.C. Hunger Solutions will be using Hear the Crunch as an opportunity to connect with D.C. council members on the importance of school breakfast by bringing apples to the council members so that they have the opportunity to “crunch” with the rest of the community. The council members will be provided information on the free breakfast program in D.C., and how they can champion the program.

According to the Food Research & Action Center’s newly released School Breakfast Scorecard, 12.2 million low-income students participated in the School Breakfast Program on an average school day in the 2016–2017 school year.

Progress is being made, but too many low-income children still miss out on the most important meal of the day. Fortunately, there are many ways schools can close this gap.

Legislation is one way. FRAC’s Scorecard ranks Washington, D.C, third in the nation in school breakfast participation. This success is due in part to the D.C. Healthy Schools Act of 2010, which requires school breakfast to be provided at no charge for all students in D.C. Public Schools and D.C. Public Charter Schools, and it requires schools with at least 40 percent of their students certified for free and reduced price school meals to implement a breakfast after the bell model that moves breakfast out of the school cafeteria and makes it more accessible and a part of the regular school day. Legislation in Maryland supports 450 schools to implement a breakfast after the bell model combined with offering breakfast for free to all students through the state-funded Maryland Meals for Achievement program.

Breakfast after the bell models generally include:

  • Breakfast in the Classroom: Meals are delivered to and eaten in the classroom at the start of the school day.
  • “Grab and Go”: Children (particularly older students) can quickly grab the components of their breakfast from carts or kiosks in the hallway or the cafeteria line to eat in their classroom or in common areas.
  • Second Chance Breakfast: Students are offered a second chance to eat breakfast after homeroom or first period. Many middle and high school students are not hungry first thing in the morning. Serving these students breakfast after first period allows them ample time to arrive to class on time, while still providing them the opportunity to get a nutritious start to the day.

Making breakfast more accessible for all students through breakfast after the bell models helps overcome the timing, convenience, and stigma barriers that get in the way of children participating in school breakfast. They are even more impactful when they are combined with offering breakfast at no charge to all students.

Through Hear the Crunch, advocates in Maryland and the Dictrict of Columbia can join with advocates across the country to celebrate National School Breakfast Week to ensure that all low-income children reap the academic and health benefits of school breakfast. And that’s something everyone can celebrate.

For additional resources on improving access to school breakfast and implementing breakfast after the bell models, visit FRAC’s school breakfast webpage.