Schools find prepackaged meals add to breakfast success
Survey finds breakfast-in-the-classroom programs increase participation.
"The key is not to get stuck in a rut – we are always revamping and upgrading and testing with students," says James Hemmen, child nutrition services supervisor and executive chef for Roosevelt School District #66 in Phoenix, Arizona. Here, school breakfast is at 100% participation since adopting universal school breakfast in the classroom six years ago to serve its nearly 11,000 students in 19 schools.
"Vendors have really stepped up to meet the changing regulations by offering tasty food that includes whole grains and more protein, for example," says Hemmen. "Prepackaged is great because the staff doesn't have to gather four separate items to put together a meal. There are so many labor-saving options becoming available."
This sentiment is echoed by Steve Gallagher, director of child nutrition services for Oklahoma City Public Schools. His tips for foodservice directors are, "Always keep your mind open to new and better products, know what is trending, do student surveys and taste tests with a crosscut of students before an item is placed on the menu." Since implementing universal free breakfast two years ago, participation has increased 20%, now serving 17,000 students daily.
"Breakfast in the classroom would be very difficult to run well without the use of prepackaged items," says Gallagher. "They have improved significantly nutritionally and in flavor since I first started in this industry."
In Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) serve a variety of prepackaged breakfasts as part of its universal free breakfast for 12,000 students daily at all of its 80 sites, which include elementary, middle, secondary and early childhood centers. PPS has increased its breakfast participation by nearly 33%, notes Cathy Willett, food service purchasing supervisor.
Willett describes a typical weekly offering at their elementary schools includes, in addition to milk: prepackaged meals two days a week that contain a whole grain, lower sugar bowl-pack cereal, a wholesome snack, and a 100% fruit juice pouch; hot breakfast two days per week is a choice of prepackaged heat-and-serve mini pancakes, mini waffles, French toast sticks, egg muffin sandwiches, etc.; and a yogurt meal kit one day per week that contains 4 oz. lower-sugar yogurt, wholesome snack and 100% fruit juice.
According to the got breakfast? survey, of those offering prepackaged breakfasts, "convenience" tops the list as to the reason why (37%); followed by "variety" (17%) and "kid appeal" (13%).
The mission of the got breakfast? Foundation is to ensure that every child starts the school day with a nutritious breakfast in order to learn, grow and develop to his or her fullest potential. Visit gotbreakfast.org for information.
Source: PR Newswire