Darlington County School District seeing early success with expanded Breakfast in the Classroom
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Students focus and perform better after a wholesome, nutritious breakfast. This understanding is the catalyst behind an effort to provide “Breakfast in the Classroom” to students across the Darlington County School District (DCSD).
Three schools have already been providing Breakfast in the Classroom (BiC) through the S.C. Department of Education’s No Kid Hungry Breakfast Improvement Grant. Now, Superintendent Dr. Tim Newman aims to bring it to all students.
“Our focus is always on what’s best for our kids,” Newman said. “If we have kids that are hungry, if we have kids that are worried more about having nothing in their stomach than they are about paying attention, you cannot capture them and help them learn. We think this will help.”
A pilot program to expand BiC kicked off earlier this semester. Schools are exploring the flexibility to implement the program in ways that best meet the needs of their students and campuses. Darlington-Lee Adult Education also jumped on board and now provides meals to its students to go along with childcare during class hours. Just as the USDA’s Community Eligibility Program provides all DCSD students with free lunch, BiC is provided at no cost to students.
Ensuring that students have access to healthy meals to start their day is not only an important goal of Newman’s but also of Food Services Director Dawn Johnson’s.
“Students who eat breakfast focus better, concentrate better, score higher on tests and display less discipline problems,” Johnson said. “Nationwide studies indicate that the impact of just eating a healthy breakfast is substantially positive.”
The BiC pilot programs are being employed in two ways: actually serving food in the classroom during the first few minutes in the morning and via “grab-and-go” food carts placed in high-traffic areas as soon as school lets in.
In the classroom, students assist teachers and food service staff in distributing the meals each morning. Every breakfast includes individually wrapped items, most of which are warm. Fresh fruits, yogurt, steak biscuits, cereals, cheese grits bowls, pancake bites, milk and juices are all available. The items are whole grain and follow USDA school food guidelines. Students are able to eat at their desks while teachers take morning attendance, complete review work and read announcements. Trash is put into a container for removal, and no food is left inside the classroom.
“These are hot, nutritious meals that take no effort on the students’ part to enjoy,” Johnson said. “We’re looking to help students in the classroom and out of the classroom by providing breakfast every morning. We also want to help students make healthier choices about the food they eat.”
The grab-and-go carts contain the same breakfast items and are stationed to allow students to simply grab what they want on their way to class.
“Not all behavior issues are due to a lack of breakfast, but some of them are,” Newman said. “We felt that if this would help any of our kids get started with their day, then we needed to take a look.”
Many of the district’s schools are now piloting BiC across various grade levels and in different forms. The program does not replace traditional breakfast service available in school cafeterias each morning. It provides another option for students to have access. Newman and Johnson hope to continue expanding the program across the district next school year.