With many families experiencing financial difficulties in 2011, breakfast participation in the St. Marys ASD needed a boost despite the low prices for school meals. Finding innovative ways to promote the district’s school breakfast program while helping the community became a priority for the Food Service Director, Jennifer Asti. These two basic goals were the foundation for the promotions she began to conduct.
Jennifer examined her budget to determine if her program could afford to support district-wide free breakfast. She decided that the reimbursements the district would get from the increase in participation she hoped for (10 to 15%) would make it affordable to offer free breakfast once a month. (NOTE: Even when schools offer free breakfast to all students, they must still count and claim students in the correct eligibility categories.)
Thus, for one day in every month since October 2011 the district has offered breakfast for free in every building. Most “entree” items on these days are warm, including breakfast sandwiches, whole grain waffles, and blueberry pancakes, along with yogurt dishes and fruit. This outreach to the community puts the breakfast program on display, showing off the variety of low-cost foods available for breakfast while reminding families of the importance of breakfast for every student, every day. In turn the community views the district's breakfast program in a very positive light, with participation consistently increasing.
Grades K-5 in each of the three elementary buildings also take part in a “Milk Mustache Program.” Each month on the free breakfast day, a student is randomly selected as the Milk Mustache poster student for the upcoming month. Each of these students chooses a theme for his/her own milk mustache poster, which reminds all students of the importance of consuming milk. The family of each month's Milk Mustache poster student is invited to participate in the free breakfast during which their child's poster is shown to the school. Students are always thrilled to have their families with them to watch as the posters they created are finally revealed.
The cafeterias are decorated for the free breakfast days, and the staff help to find props and music to play. They also help students develop their Milk Mustache posters, and the principal and teachers pose for the posters when requested. These events provide students an opportunity to have fun while involved in school breakfast activities, all the while learning the crucial messages of the importance of eating breakfast and the importance of milk consumption.
St. Marys Area School District is very proud of their School Breakfast Program. The district has received tremendous support from parents, faculty, and the community, and there are plans to expand the program to involve the older students with an age-appropriate “Free Breakfast Day” event.
Contact Person: Jennifer Asti
Contact Person’s Title: Food Service Director
Contact Person’s Phone Number: (814) 781-2116
- To promote the district's breakfast program by making it engaging and fun for the students.
- To stress the importance of breakfast as a crucial part of everyone’s day, along with the importance of consuming milk.
- To inform the community about the district's wonderful school breakfast program, the variety of foods offered, and the low prices.
- Evaluate staffing and budget first.
- Don't be afraid to try different things.
- Network with other schools to learn what they’re doing and if it is working. Something similar might work for you, too.
- Trial and error can benefit your program.
- Communicate with the administration. Tell them what your goal is, and ask them if they see any barriers, suggestions, etc.
Evidence of Success
- Administration always says that it is a fabulous program and a great educational tool that increases participation while creating a fun atmosphere for everyone.
- Participation increased 2-3% in only the first couple of months, and participation continued to grow steadily during the first year.
- Enrollment has been dropping in the schools, yet participation in the breakfast program has increased.
- Feedback from students, parents, faculty, other staff, and administration are all continuously positive.