Hempfield School District
Child Nutrition Director: Carol Gilbert
Mahanoy Area School District
District Enrollment: 6966
District Free/Reduced: 15%
Pat Latshaw, the principal at Landisville Intermediate School became concerned about students visiting the nurse's office in the mornings with hunger complaints. This occurrence convinced her of the need for a school breakfast program. However, the layout of the school building was a bit problematic. The cafeteria is located far from the school entrance. Given the short amount of time in the mornings that could be devoted to breakfast, and the fact that students who were participating in breakfast in the cafeteria were lingering a bit too long and not making it to class on time, there was a need for an innovative approach to school breakfast.
The Creative Strategy: Grab 'n Go Breakfast
A "Grab 'n Go" program was implemented, allowing students to pick up a breakfast as they enter the school building and take it to their classroom. As the students come into the building, they immediately come upon two carts that school foodservice employees wheel down from the cafeteria. Students pick up a bag, a straw, and plastic utensils, all of which are disposable. They also pick up the foods that they choose and fill their own bags. Carol Gilbert, the Child Nutrition Director at Hempfield School District explained that when the program started, the school foodservice employees filled the bags ahead of time. However, they found that, at the end of the day, they were spending time emptying the bags that were not taken. A cafeteria manager suggested that they allow the students to fill their own bags, eliminating the time spent by the employees emptying and filling bags, and providing students with more choices.
Carol believes that the placement of the school breakfast carts so students see them immediately as they come into the building, makes students more likely to participate. As she says, "It is like at the check out line and you see the magazine that you might never buy, but because it is there, it catches your eye and you participate."
After only one week of the "Grab 'n Go" breakfast program, teachers began to contact Carol and her staff to report benefits that they had noticed in their classrooms. The teachers noticed improvements in students' attention spans and fewer nurse's visits, and they credited the breakfast program for these positive results. Linda Fungaroli-Azaroff, a teacher at Landisville Intermediate School reported that she used to keep food in her classroom, to offer to students who complained of stomach aches and head aches that she could trace to breakfast skipping. Now, she feels that the "Grab 'n Go" breakfast program is filling these needs.
Carol reports that the idea of a "Grab 'n Go" breakfast program that would result in students eating in the classrooms was met with some degree of skepticism and concern by the teachers, especially in regards to trash issues. However, Carol had addressed this issue in planning the program by arranging for trash receptacles to be placed in the hallways. After approximately four days into the program, the teachers' concerns were dissipated when they saw the effectiveness of the program and that the plan for trash collection was successful.
Keys to Success
Carol stresses communication as the key to any successful program. She kicked off the program with a free breakfast for the teachers at a breakfast meeting. Teachers could ask questions and see the kinds of food that would be served to the students. Free breakfast was also offered to students on the first day to introduce the program.