August 9, 2004 - The Academics and Breakfast Connection (ABC), a pilot project that served free breakfast to students in the classrooms of upstate New York schools, decreased hunger, absenteeism, tardiness, disciplinary referrals and the number of visits to the school nurse. It also increased participation in the School Breakfast Program.
The 19 schools in the 2003-2004 pilot were representative of low and higher income students located in rural, urban and suburban areas.
During the implementation school year of the ABC program, 65% of students received breakfast, compared to only 22% during the previous year when ABC was not implemented. The ABC pilot programs served over 5,100 students daily compared to 1,750 the year before.
Results from the first half of the school year (September-December) revealed:
- 23% decrease in absenteeism
- 29% decrease in tardiness
- 49% decrease in disciplinary referrals
- 24% decline in visits to the nurse
What Teachers Think
Approximately 80% of teachers reported that fewer students who participated in the ABC program complained of hunger. Overall, most teachers felt the program had a positive impact on students. More than two-thirds of the teachers also reported that the program did not interfere with their ability to teach and they would like to see the program continue during the next school year.
What Works: School Breakfast
Schools developed a variety of strategies to incorporate breakfast in the classroom.
- Carts were set up in the foyer for students to pick up breakfast as they enter the school or get off the bus
- Foodservice staff delivered breakfast directly to class before students arrive
- Stations were set up in school “pods” or quadrants to pick up breakfast on their way to class
- Students picked up breakfast in the cafeteria then took it to class
Why Breakfast in the Classroom
One of the most frequently reported barriers to breakfast is time. Bus schedules, short district breakfast periods, and other obstacles make it difficult for all students to eat breakfast. Serving breakfast in class provides students enough time to eat while learning.
Providing free breakfast to everyone also takes away the stigma attached to the traditional breakfast program of students being of lower income -- another barrier to participation. Universal breakfast programs allow all students the opportunity to eat together, regardless of income level or bus schedule.