A BREAKFAST AFTER THE BELL CASE STUDY
MEET LOGAN-HOCKING SCHOOL DISTRICT
A successful breakfast after the bell program program often starts with strong engagement from all stakeholders in the school. This includes the food service staff, teachers, education support professionals, administrators, parents, and students.
The breakfast after the bell program at Logan-Hocking School District in Ohio was no exception — but a unique element to Logan-Hocking’s implementation has been the active leadership of the Logan Education Association (LEA), supported by the Ohio Education Association (OEA). LEA’s leadership brought the program to the district and engaged stakeholders from the earliest stages. By working in partnership with the district’s administration, LEA has helped to make a big difference in the lives of the district’s students. As OEA Vice President Scott DiMauro puts it, “There is inherent value in expanding student access to breakfast.”
The partnership that brought breakfast after the bell to Logan-Hocking started with a conversation between Brenda Lemon, LEA president, and Monte Bainter, district superintendent. Both were interested in and committed to bringing breakfast after the bell to their district. They built their program on a foundation of four core ideas. First, the purpose of the program is to support the students, families, and educators of Logan-Hocking. Second, they believed that staff and families should be able to get their questions about the program answered as the program was planned and rolled out. Third, they valued all stakeholders at the building level and stressed the need for them to be involved in determining what was necessary to make the program work in their school. And fourth, the group decided to adjust the program as needed if problems were identified. At the end of the 2016–2017 school year, the district piloted the program in one school, and then, after great success, rolled it out the following year to all five of its elementary schools.
In the summer of 2016, Lemon was at an OEA meeting and was asked if she was interested in working with the Partners for BIC to expand breakfast in Logan-Hocking. Her response was simple: “We have a new superintendent. Let me go back and talk to him and see what his thoughts are.” As Bainter recalls, Lemon walked into his office saying, “‘Monte, I have this idea,’ and I said, ‘It’s funny, Brenda, because I have an idea, too.’” And it was the same idea — bringing breakfast to the classrooms of Logan-Hocking’s elementary schools to ensure that more children get a healthy start to the day and are in school ready to learn. Lemon shared what she had learned about the Partners for BIC initiative, and Bainter gave it the go-ahead.
Then the work really began. Lemon recounts, “From that point on, it was working with the teachers, the members of the classified staff [such as], cooks, custodians, and bus drivers to inform them about what the program can do for us locally and to get their input on how we could develop it to fit their needs.”
Stakeholders from the district took the initiative to visit other districts where breakfast after the bell had been successfully implemented and also drew from the expertise of the Children’s Hunger Alliance (CHA) of Ohio. They worked together to develop needs assessments for each school building being considered for the program.
Through this development period, the district had the opportunity to pilot breakfast in the classroom in one school in the second half of the 2016–2017 school year, thanks to a CHA grant. Second-grade teacher Connie Fleming describes the students’ response to the pilot: “The kids thought it was awesome!”
In addition to the students, school staff and administrators thought the pilot was a success. Using the positive findings from the pilot, the district was able to complete its Partners for BIC assessment and application, order the necessary equipment, and make plans to roll the program out districtwide at the beginning of the next school year.
BREAKFAST IS SERVED
Every school is different, and even a districtwide program should focus on the specifics of each individual school. This means developing a formal plan for each building where the program will be implemented. This plan starts with asking stakeholders, “What do you need to make this work?” This could be trash bags, training, ideas for how to manage spills, or information on the nutritional value of the meals served.
Regardless of the answers, the Logan-Hocking School District committed to helping staff get what they needed. There was also a strong element of educator-to-educator support. Lemon shares how veteran teachers talked with newer colleagues about how the breakfast program was similar to in-class snacks they had served in the past. She says, “It wasn’t that big of a deal then, and it’s not that big of a deal now.”
While the basics of the in-classroom service are similar across all of the district’s schools, each school does it a bit differently. Cassie McGowan, the district’s food service director, describes what a “typical day” looks like: “When the children get off the bus, they head straight to their classrooms; the cooks already have … all the bags up to the classrooms so that the teachers are able to set those out.” Children pick up their breakfast and eat, using that time to do morning work or review the previous day’s work. After eating, the students help with the cleanup, and in some schools, students then take the breakfast bags back to the kitchen. At that point, students are ready to start the day, and the cafeteria staff continue lunch preparations while also getting breakfast ready for the next day.
Practice makes perfect, and even in the school that had the pilot year under its belt, it took a few weeks at the start of each new school year for everything to work smoothly. Principal Debbie Heath recalls, “I feel like we hit a good stride in September, which is about a month into the school year starting . . . I’m walking around to classrooms, and it’s just no difference. They’re all working. Students are working and doing morning work, or they are in small groups doing review, and breakfast is just happening.”
Of course, even the best-planned programs will have challenges. In the Logan-Hocking School District, one challenge for some staff was their concern about the mess and handling cleanup. Others were worried about losing instructional time. Here again, LEA helped to address these concerns through meetings and the use of veteran educators to support their colleagues.
When the program was underway, each classroom received the equipment needed to manage spills. Fleming describes what happened in her classroom: “We did have some spills … but the kids love the dustpan and the broom, so they were really good about cleaning up after themselves.”
The Partners for BIC initiative has helped to build support and capacity by giving school staff the chance to visit another school district that has implemented breakfast after the bell. Logan-Hocking used this strategy to help address educator concerns. Second-grade teacher Christine Teti was one of those who made the visit. She says, “I think initially I was a little hesitant … But I actually went and observed Lancaster schools doing it in their classrooms and how smooth it was how they ran it over there … I thought that it would actually be an excellent way to get our children fed each and every day.”
Heath also appreciated the visit to Lancaster. She notes that the team members who went to observe were able to consider what they thought would and would not work. As the principal of the pilot school, Heath was willing to experiment. She recalls, “We immedicately realized we had bags for the food that I could fit inside, that’s how big they were, so we said, ‘That’s not going to work.’” But Heath says, they did not give up: “We reordered some bags they could actually carry.”
Jaclyn Sturgell, a fourth grade teacher in the pilot school, also had a concern. Knowing how much her students like to socialize, she worried about the loss of instructional time. But the pilot showed her that breakfast could be completed in a timely manner, and that the students would be ready for their next activity. Like many other teachers in schools with the BIC program, she was very impressed with her students’ ability to manage cleanup. She says, “They know to sweep if they make a mess. But then they just clean up their own mess, they throw it in the trash can outside [in] the hallway, and then the janitor wheels it away.”
For food service staff, it was important to create routines that met the needs of each particular school. McGowan explains, “We did a couple of time-studies at each location to try and work through the time constraints and find what was best for those cafeteria workers.” This also included looking at the layout of each school to determine the best way to organize the food for loading. Because food service workers had concerns about the extra time needed to prepare the food, both McGowan and Bainter talked about the realization that schedules could be adjusted and hours added.
One challenge faced by at least one of the schools was significant staff turnover, in this case, it was in the food service and custodial areas. Heath recalls, “Halfway through the year, all of my custodians and cooks retired, so that was a little bit of a challenge because then I had four new staff members coming on that had to be trained on how to do school breakfast because they’d never done it.”
One key to the program’s success is the commitment to ongoing monitoring to ensure that the program is working properly. Bainter notes that change can be hard, even change that is done in the best interest of students. In his view, the superintendent’s job is to “try to provide the support to overcome those things and to lessen the hesitation … Sometimes it’s just doing business a little different now, and anytime you change, change takes time.”
The impact of the program is ongoing. In the first year, the district saw a significant increase in participation in breakfast. In addition, educators in Logan-Hocking reported a variety of positive impacts. Lemon shares that she hears few complaints, and that most of the comments she has received have been very positive. Bainter points to the system change that has occurred: “It just becomes part of the culture of what we are doing.”
As classroom teachers, Fleming and Teti both report that they have seen improvements in their students’ behavior and mood, and that their students have fewer visits to the nurse. For Fleming, breakfast after the bell has allowed her to see her students in a different way through time spent in conversation with them. She also notes that parents appreciate the program: “One of the kids even told me, ‘My mom says she loves us getting breakfast in the classroom because our morning goes so much better because she’s not trying to rush to get breakfast out, too .’”
For Teti, breakfast after the bell gives her the opportunity to help create an environment of safety and stability for students in need. She has seen how students are less likely to lose focus at the beginning of the day because of hunger; BIC helps solve that problem.
The Logan-Hocking experience is one that captures the importance of stakeholder engagement, strengthened by the active involvement of the local NEA affiliate. By using her role as president of the local association, Lemon was able to reach out to people, visit schools, answer questions, and lead alongside the superintendent — all in the best interest of the students.
This leadership did not go unnoticed by teachers and others in the district. OEA’s DiMauro describes it as showing what can happen when you have strong leadership and a grassroots-organizing approach. And along with leadership goes engagement. In Bainter’s words, “Go for it, but engage — engage your stakeholders with this. Get people on board with you.”
WORDS OF WISDOM FROM LOGAN-HOCKING SCHOOL DISTRICT TO OTHER DISTRICTS CONSIDERING BREAKFAST AFTER THE BELL
“They have to do it the way that works best for them, and what they have to do is, first of all, do an assessment.”Library Media Specialist/President, Logan-Hocking Education Association
“Engage your stakeholders.”Superintendent
“Give it a try. You’re going to be glad you did.”Elementary School Teacher
“Just be organized from the start. Make your plan, lay everything out, and just know you’re going to have to make changes and adapt it.”Principal
“Set a routine, and just work that first couple of weeks to teach the kids what they need to get into the routine. It works really smoothly.”Elementary School Teacher
“It becomes just more of a social norm. This is what we do; this is how we come together as a school community. But just make sure you invite all those critical people in.”Principal
“There is no problem so big that can’t be overcome to feed children.”Teacher
ABOUT PARTNERS FOR BREAKFAST IN THE CLASSROOM
The Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom (Partners for BIC) is a consortium of national education and nutrition organizations, including the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), the School Nutrition Foundation (SNF), the NEA Foundation, and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Foundation. With the generous support of the Walmart Foundation, Partners for BIC has provided technical assistance and over $11 million in funding to support the implementation of breakfast after the bell models in more than 500 schools in 70 districts, leading to over 100,000 additional children eating a healthy school breakfast since 2010.