Breakfast After the Bell
Traditional breakfast—served in the cafeteria before the school day begins—often has low participation due to factors ranging from tight schedules to concerns about stigma.
Breakfast After the Bell improves student’s access to the School Breakfast Program. Increased access to school breakfast means that more students have the opportunity to participate in school breakfast resulting in strong school breakfast participation. Robust participation opens opportunities for schools to not only build financially viable breakfast programs, but continue to expand and improve their Breakfast After the Bell programs—creating a sustainable solution for both students and schools.
Learn more about Breakfast after the Bell service models below, or download a printable pdf.
Breakfast in the Classroom
This model is one of the most effective strategies for increasing school breakfast participation. Students eat breakfast in their classroom after the official start of the school day. Many teachers and principals cite it as an opportunity to incorporate social and emotional learning into the school day. In addition, sharing a meal in the classroom reduces the stigma associated with school breakfast and provides social bonding time.
How it Works
School nutrition staff packs breakfasts into coolers or insulated bags.
Breakfast is delivered from the cafeteria to classrooms by nutrition staff or designated students, via coolers or insulated rolling bags. Nutrition staff can serve breakfast from mobile carts in the hallways outside of the classroom.
Teachers, nutrition staff, volunteers, or students distribute meals to students at their desks or before they take their seats. Teachers or nutrition staff record which, or how many, students eat breakfast.
Students eat at their desks during the first 10 to 15 minutes of class, during morning announcements, or while the teacher takes attendance, reviews lessons, or checks homework. Some teachers use breakfast in the classroom as a means to teach nutrition, reading, science or math lessons.
Students clear breakfast trash and wipe down desks. Trash can be placed in the hallway to be collected by custodial staff and milk can be discarded in the sink or, if there is no sink, in a designated bucket. Coolers, bags and any leftover food are returned to the cafeteria by nutrition staff, designated students, or volunteers.
Where it Works Best
Breakfast in the Classroom works best where children always start the day with the same teacher. This makes delivery, counting, and claiming run more smoothly.
Grab & Go
Grab and Go provides remarkable flexibility for schools. Students pick up conveniently packaged breakfasts from mobile service carts or vending machines in high traffic areas when they arrive at school or between classes.
How it Works
School nutrition staff packs reimbursable breakfasts into bags, boxes, or trays that are placed in the cafeteria or in carts, kiosks, or vending machines located in high traffic areas, such as hallways and entryways.
Students pick up breakfast when they arrive at school or on the way to class.
Participants are counted by nutrition staff through a point of sale system or with manual lists at carts and kiosks. Vending machines are synched to the point of sale system so students can swipe cards and/or enter ID numbers to access breakfast.
Students eat at their desks, in the cafeteria, on the way to class, or in other designated areas.
Menu items are typically easy to eat on the go.
Breakfast is generally consumed on the way to or during the first 10 or 15 minutes of class.
Where it Works Best
Grab and Go breakfasts work particularly well in middle and high schools. Older students, who have varying schedules and are often on the move, enjoy the flexibility and choice it provides.
Grab and Go is an important option for schools without elevators, which makes it difficult to deliver meals to the classroom, and schools that want to have nutrition staff do the counting and claiming of meals.
Second Chance Breakfast
This model—also referred to as Breakfast After First Period or Mid-Morning Nutrition Break—helps reduce the stigma associated with school breakfast, which heightens during middle and high school.
How it Works
School nutrition staff serves breakfast after first period during a morning nutrition break or between classroom periods, either in the cafeteria, from carts in the hallway, or other locations.
Students eat in the cafeteria or take a bagged meal to eat between classes or during the next period. If breakfast is served from the cafeteria, students should have enough time between classes to pick it up and eat it there.
Where it Works Best
Second Chance Breakfast works particularly well in secondary schools. Older students are often not hungry early in the morning and high schoolers tend to arrive later to school, leaving less time for breakfast. This model also works well for schools with later lunch periods.
- Breakfast in the Classroom Infographic: Learn about the benefits of Breakfast in the Classroom.
How It Works: Making Breakfast Part of the School Day: The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) outlines information on breakfast in the classroom, “grab and go” breakfast, and second chance breakfast to help schools choose the right alternative breakfast service model.
FRAC Facts: Offering Free Breakfast to all Students: Traditional school breakfast — in which the meal is free or the child pays, depending on family income — creates a sense among children that the program is just “for poor kids.” This deters participation by children from all income groups. Free breakfast for all students ends the stigma, boosts participation among hungry children, and eliminates the burden of collecting fees. Learn more from FRAC’s Factsheet
Breakfast Blueprint: Breakfast After the Bell Programs Support Learning : The “Breakfast Blueprint” – from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and FRAC – is a guide focused on breakfast after the bell programs—such as breakfast in the classroom, “grab and go” breakfast and second chance breakfast—because they are increasingly popular, are well-researched and have successfully helped schools and districts improve students’ access to nutritious foods.
School Breakfast After the Bell: Equipping Students for Academic Success – Secondary School Principals Share What Works: This report from the Food Research & Action Center and National Association of Secondary School Principals highlights the experiences of 105 secondary school principals from 67 districts that have integrated breakfast as a part of the school day by implementing a breakfast after the bell program, and provides insights into program benefits and best practices regarding how to launch a similar program.
Secondary School Principals’ Breakfast After the Bell Toolkit: This toolkit from the FRAC provides guidance to principals in how to effectively partner with their school nutrition department to bring “grab-and-go” breakfast, second-chance breakfast, or breakfast in the classroom programs to their schools.
- Breakfast in the Classroom Toolkit: View tips on maximizing the SBP, from the National Education Association Health Information Network.
- NFSMI Best Practice Guide for In-Classroom Breakfast: This National Food Service Management Institute guide is a resource for school nutrition directors who wish to implement in-classroom breakfast programs customized for each school within a district, assess existing in-classroom breakfast programs, and capture issues that will impact the decision-making process and lead to the overall success of the in-classroom program.
- Start with School Breakfast: A Guide to Increasing School Breakfast Participation: This toolkit from the National Education Association Health Information Network and Share Our Strength has simple instructions and easy-to-use templates to help you make the most of your school breakfast program, as well as outreach materials you can tailor and use in your school community.
- FRAC Breakfast Matters “How to” Webinar: Learn about piloting and expanding Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab and Go, and Second Chance Breakfast programs.
- Click here for additional webinar and conference call recordings from FRAC.
- USDA Resources on School Breakfast: Here you will find a collection of digital resources program operators and other stakeholders may use to establish or expand breakfast service within their school.
- Expanding School Breakfast Participation: The Food Research and Action Center outlines alternative breakfast service models and addresses common concerns about classroom breakfast with a series of frequently asked questions.
- No Kid Hungry Center for Best Practices: Share Our Strength highlights reports, case studies, guides, toolkits, memos, surveys and more on their school breakfast website.