RACINE — The Southern Local School District recently received the prestigious Champion of School Breakfast Award from the Ohio School Breakfast Challenge. Schools and their administration were recognized for their innovative and collaborative school breakfast practices, including their commitment to increasing school breakfast participation and empowering students to make healthy choices. Southern received an engraved crystal breakfast bowl and a letter of commendation from the Ohio Department of Agriculture for their excellence and innovation of school breakfast service.
It was also announced at the award banquet that Southern was a Gold Star winner in the Breakfast Week challenge, one of only two schools honored to achieve such an honor. Southern will receive a banner in the fall. Ohio’s First Lady Fran DeWine and Stephanie Siddens, senior executive director of the Center for Student Supports at the Ohio Department of Education, presented award winners with an engraved crystal breakfast bowl on behalf of the Ohio School Breakfast Challenge and a letter of commendation from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Also involved in the presentation was Cathy Corbitt with Ohio Department of Agriculture, who is the Deputy Director of Children’s Initiatives.
In the fall of the 2018-19 school year, the Southern Local School District implemented the Breakfast in the Classroom program district-wide to its 740 students. This came after a trial run of the program in the kindergarten and pre-school the previous year.
The Southern Local School District is dedicated to ensuring that all students start their day with a healthy breakfast. The Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom grant provided equipment, and updates to the menu enabling students to have easy access to breakfast and more breakfast choices.
Eating breakfast in the classroom eliminated common barriers such as the time needed to pick up a breakfast in the cafeteria, and the obstacle of students electing to socialize with friends rather than eat breakfast before starting the school day.
Southern Supt. Tony Deem said, “We had two goals we wanted to accomplish: to make sure that every kid had a chance to get a nutritious, healthy start to the school day, and to continue our quest to improve preparedness to learn. The two goals went together very well. Research has shown that kids that are not hungry learn better than kids that are hungry.”
Incorporated into the Breakfast in the Classroom concept is that students are having breakfast in the classroom after the bell, when the actual school day begins. Some classroom teachers choose to do “Bell-ringer” activities to start the day, while others simply begin their regular lessons all while students eat.
Southern’s program emphasizes an improvement in access. Food Service Director Scott Wolfe said, “We knew we had many kids that were not eating breakfast. We also knew that some weren’t eating because of peer pressure, it wasn’t the cool thing to do, or that it wasn’t convenient. So, we set out to eliminate those barriers and improve access.”
Wolfe added, “Mr. Deem and I accepted the award, but the praise goes out to the Southern teaching and kitchen staff and support staff as well as the students. This is a great day for Southern Local.”
The Ohio School Breakfast Challenge’s mission is to increase and sustain student participation in the School Breakfast Program, ensuring Ohio students start each day ready to learn. The Ohio Department of Education, American Dairy Association Mideast, Children’s Hunger Alliance, Ohio Action for Healthy Kids and Ohio School Nutrition Association are proud sponsors of the Ohio School Breakfast Challenge.
Research shows that students who eat breakfast perform better in school, get higher test scores and show better behavior. Students who eat school breakfast have been shown, on average, to attend 1.5 more days of school per year and score 17.5 percent higher on standardized math tests.
School principals report that tardies are down and attendance is up by an average of two percent over the past three years’ data. They also noted that overall referrals were fewer the first semester, down nearly 100 for each building in comparison to the previous year. The school nurse reports that office visits have decreased, especially prior to lunch when she felt many students that were hungry came to the office with reported tummy aches.
Southern 6th grade teacher Katie Ash noted, “Kids look forward to breakfast now and they have a much higher energy level. Kids are much more focused before lunch. I’ve seen students more productive academically and students that are less needy.”
Southern was selected to participate in the fourth phase of the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom program, which is a joint initiative from the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation (NAESPF), the School Nutrition Foundation (SNF), and The NEA Foundation – collectively known as the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom. The Walmart foundation is a key sponsor in the initiative.
The Ohio School Breakfast Challenge is a statewide challenge to increase and sustain student participation in the School Breakfast Program, ensuring Ohio students start each day ready to learn. The Ohio Department of Education, American Dairy Association Mideast, Children’s Hunger Alliance, Ohio Action for Healthy Kids and Ohio School Nutrition Association are proud sponsors of the Ohio School Breakfast Challenge. For more information about the Ohio School Breakfast Challenge, visit OhioSchoolBreakfastChallenge.com.
Information provided by Southern Local School District.