Homer-Center School District
Homer City, PA
Homer-Center Food Service Director: M. Susan McLoughlin
Homer-Center School District
District Enrollment: 998
District Free/Reduced: 43%
A few years ago, when Susan McLoughlin, Food Service Director at Homer-Center School District asked high school students why they were not participating in breakfast, she learned that students preferred to socialize or sleep late, rather than eat breakfast at school. In addition, a large percentage of students were bussed to school and the bus schedule did not allow them to get to school in time to eat breakfast.
Coupled with these issues affecting participation in the breakfast programs was a tardiness problem. An activity period was held at the beginning of the school day and students did not view this period as important enough to make sure they arrived on time.
The Creative Strategy: Breakfast After First Period
Susan and the other administrators realized they could address the breakfast participation and tardiness issues if they offered breakfast after first period, and began the day with a first-period class rather than homeroom. The students come into school and go to their first period class. After first period, they go back to homeroom, and then go to breakfast.
Susan reports that participation in school breakfast "skyrocketed" when "Breakfast after First Period" was initiated because students no longer had to choose between breakfast and before-school activities. The students know that after first period they can either sit in their homerooms, or they can come to the cafeteria with their friends and have breakfast. Most are choosing to have breakfast.
Another Creative Strategy: Universal Free Breakfast
Susan introduced the high school principal to the idea of Universal Free Breakfast, and he responded enthusiastically. After a financial analysis convinced them that a Universal Free Breakfast program was feasible, they introduced it to the elementary school principal, the Superintendent, and the business manager. The decision was made to implement the free program.
School breakfast participation at the high school is approximately 70% of enrollment. One of Susan's concerns about initiating a Universal free breakfast program was the effect it might have on lunch participation, since some students might be scheduled to have lunch two hours after eating breakfast. Her concerns proved unfounded as she realized that lunch participation actually increased when the Universal free breakfast program was instituted.
The principal reports benefits of the successful breakfast program, including fewer nurse's visits and another opportunity for students to have some social time, eliminating the need for social time in the hallways and classrooms. Susan was pleased to see that all of the reported benefits of successful school breakfast programs were realized in her district, including better classroom performance, less tardiness, better attention spans, and fewer hunger complaints. As she said, "It's been very nice to see that everything that we read and were told actually did come true."
Keys to Success
Susan identifies support from administrators and teachers as keys to a successful breakfast program. She also credits her staff with being in touch with the students, understanding their likes and dislikes, and always having their best interests in mind.