2012 Silver Plate—Lyman Graham lobbies for New Mexico law for breakfast after the bell

New Mexico Senate Bill 144 gives districts funding for morning meals.

After he increased breakfast participation in his districts, Lyman Graham, foodservice director at Roswell Independent School District, Carlsbad Municipal Schools and Dexter Consolidated Schools in New Mexico, turned his attention to helping other districts in New Mexico start “breakfast after the bell” programs.

“I just see [breakfast] as such a big open field. I think in the National School Lunch Program we feed close to 31 million students a day and only about 12 million for breakfast. From the success I’ve seen in my own district, we really began to push breakfast in our state. A lot of school districts are not financially sound in their cafeterias. I tell them if you feed more people you become more financially sound, as long as you’re not spending too much on your meal or labor. I started teaching classes on breakfast in the classroom and breakfast after the bell. When I took over Carlsbad I had to do something to turn that around. Breakfast in the classroom was a big way to turn it around. You take the very same labor you have and use it for breakfast. Because I was really pushing that, a couple of months I was feeding more at breakfast than I was lunch.”

NM Senate Bill 144: “We started lobbying in the state. Appleseed, (a nonprofit network of 17 public interest justice centers in the U.S. and Mexico.) which helps lobby to end hunger, got on board. We convinced quite a few politicians in our state legislature that [funding breakfast after the bell programs] was a very good thing to do. Appleseed made a video about the programs. My district was in the video. New Mexico is not known for the best test scores, so we told the state legislators that breakfast helped with test scores. We have a high percentage of food insufficiency in our state. So breakfast is a really good way to get food right to the kids who needs it by feeding them at school. A lot of schools have seen higher test scores [since starting breakfast after the bell programs]. Senate Bill 144 gave money to foodservice directors to implement breakfast after the bell. We’re now No. 1 in breakfast, percentagewise.”

Direct certification task force: “Direct cert is one of the things the government has put into place in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. I was on the task force [about a potential Provision 4 designation]. The government is trying to be able to look at a school that has a certain percentage automatically qualifying for direct cert, which means so many people are already on food stamps or a needs program so they are automatically qualified to be a totally free school so foodservice programs don’t need to collect applications. I was on the task force that tried to show the government how it needed to set the program up to work for schools that fit in that area. It had to do with the U.S. Census.”

School Nutrition Association: “SNA is a great organization. I started out in my local state years ago, in 1989 or 1990. I went to my first conference and met a lot of people. A lot of employees took me under their wings. I love the networking of SNA because all school foodservice people have the same problems so we get to network and talk about it and we can help one another. I’ve held pretty much every office except secretary in the New Mexico state association. In the national association I’ve been on the professional task force. I’ve been on the public policy and legislation committee now for six years. I think it’s one of the greatest committees. I’m learning to lobby and seeing how the laws are put together and how they affect our program.

Our district pays the membership for the foodservice employees. When they become a member they are a member of New Mexico SNA and national SNA. They get a lot of training from SNA. It’s really good for them.”