Dear Editor,

Earlier this month schools across Virginia celebrated National School Breakfast Week on March 4-8. The week is an opportunity to raise awareness about the healthy choices available for school breakfast and the importance of alternative breakfast models. Also known as Breakfast After the Bell, these programs help make sure children have access to school breakfast by making it a part of the school day.

There’s a reason breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. Research indicates that eating breakfast at school helps children improve classroom performance, attendance and promotes healthy habits. Good news: More than 1,000 Virginia schools have Breakfast After the Bell programs. Fairfax County – the 10th largest school district in the U.S. with 186,000 students – operates more than 50 Breakfast After the Bell programs.

No Kid Hungry Virginia and partners have been working alongside schools across the commonwealth to start and grow alternative breakfast models. We’ve seen tremendous success with elementary schools implementing Breakfast After the Bell programs. We are now seeing more and more growth in middle and high schools. These increases would not be possible without the support of school administrators and principals who recognize the value of Breakfast After the Bell and have served as energetic champions of the program.

One such advocate is Principal Chad Lehman at Luther Jackson Middle School. When he first heard about Breakfast After the Bell last April, Principal Lehman was motivated by the positive academic and health outcomes associated with breakfast. The school rolled out a Grab & Go program, where students can pick up breakfast at a hallway kiosk and eat in class after the bell has rung.

Shortly after beginning a Breakfast After the Bell program, Luther Jackson Middle School doubled its student breakfast participation. Now that’s breakfast success to celebrate.

Just four miles away, Annandale High School’s Assistant Vice Principal Brian Valentine helped launch a program that resulted in a 131 percent increase in students eating breakfast. After hearing about Breakfast After the Bell, Vice Principal Valentine convened a group of key partners including principals, teachers, the school nurse, custodians, parents and students on how Breakfast After the Bell could work for Annandale High School. After nine months of planning, breakfast kiosks were setup in two high traffic areas of the building, allowing students to eat during their morning break.

Before the 2018-2019 school year, an average of 250 students accessed breakfast meals through the school’s traditional cafeteria program. Since starting the new Breakfast After the Bell model, breakfast participation has risen to an average of 700 students per day.

Luther Jackson Middle and Annandale High are experiencing outcomes No Kid Hungry Virginia and its partners know well – Breakfast After the Bell works. These principals, along with school staff and teachers’ commitments to food access allows our Fairfax County students to reach their full potential.

Claire Mansfield,

No Kid Hungry Virginia State Director

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