1 million breakfasts give students great start to the day 

click to enlarge The SFUSD offers kids several ways to get breakfast at school, including fruit and muffins during first recess.
  • The SFUSD offers kids several ways to get breakfast at school, including fruit and muffins during first recess.
This morning, I got to see one of our students pick up a breakfast in class. In fact, all the students had a school breakfast available at their desks, but this one was different.

It was our millionth breakfast for the school year. I know ... a million? Let me tell you how we got there.

Seeing the problem

Here’s the background. As we all know, any kid who hasn’t eaten a nutritious morning meal is less able to focus in class. Hunger takes a toll on learning.

And we all know that it’s a challenge to get kids to eat breakfast in general.

Although all San Francisco Unified School District schools offer free breakfast to qualifying students, only 9 percent of those students were taking advantage of the food served in the cafeteria before school.

We did some research and what we learned was something we already suspected: eating in the cafeteria before school can be socially isolating. It can also create the impression that the child is poor. On top of that, many families struggle get their child to school early enough for the meal.

That did it for us. Over the last few years, we have changed how we serve breakfast to students.

Breakfast locale

First, in schools that really needed a boost, we moved the breakfasts to a cart in the hallway and put them in a neat bag. Kids can grab a meal on their way to class. We call it the Grab n Go. The number of kids taking breakfast at those schools jumped — some even doubled.

Then, we rolled out breakfast during first recess. Called Second Chance, kids at these schools can get a wholewheat muffin or fruit and have some milk midmorning.

But we wanted to do more. So some schools started serving breakfast right to students’ desks. Breakfast in the Classroom meals are delivered to classrooms before school starts, and all kids, no matter their families’ income, can eat bagels, muffins or breakfast sandwiches and polish off some fruit while the teacher takes attendance and collects homework.

Did it work? The percentage of kids eating breakfast jumped at some of these schools as much as 94 percent.

Yes, we thought of that

Sure, you can set food in front of kids, but will they eat it? If it’s from Revolution Foods, our main food supplier, we bet they will. The folks at Rev Foods are “obsessive about high-quality ingredients.” Their local chefs hand-prepare our meals fresh daily.

With all this work getting so many breakfasts to our kids, at 8:15 a.m. at Balboa High School, the millionth breakfast landed in Ms. Varalli’s Spanish II classroom. I was thrilled to be there to celebrate this milestone.

For more about the SFUSD’s breakfast programs: sfusd.edu/breakfast.
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