Starting the Day Well Fed and Ready to Learn
Warren Central High School
Administrators and school leaders at Indianapolis’ Warren Central High School knew something had to be done to help more students start their day with a healthy meal. Although 70% of the school’s 3,300 students qualified for free and reduced meals, fewer than 15% of all students were eating school breakfast, leaving many of them hungry and distracted in the classroom.
With the help of a school breakfast grant from Action for Healthy Kids, made possible with generous funding by Kellogg Company – as well as some effective problem-solving by the school’s leadership team after being thrown some curve balls – all of that soon changed.
After assessing their options, the team decided the best course of action was to expand Grab ‘N’ Go Breakfast and offer universal breakfast to all students at no charge. In addition to adding hot breakfast items, yogurt parfaits, and a bagel bar to the daily offerings, the team used grant funds to purchase a breakfast cart that they placed near a side entrance to the school where most students entered in the morning.
But results were slightly disappointing: Although participation increased, there still weren’t as many students eating breakfast as administrators wanted. What’s more, the increased participation was creating crowded conditions in certain areas of the school – and with it, disciplinary issues. The team needed to regroup and figure out a way to feed more kids by moving them more quickly through the halls to their classrooms.
Menu changes that included quick Grab ‘N’ Go breakfast items offered an immediate improvement, speeding up the lines and helping to avoid conflicts among students. However, the school team determined that they simply lacked the equipment necessary to serve so many students. Another breakfast grant for the 2017-2018 school year gave them the funds they needed to purchase a second cart, which allowed access to another major traffic point during the morning routine.
Another key has been creating marketing materials and promoting monthly and weekly themes focused on nutrition. The team uses fliers to advertise at each of the registers and stations what’s on the day’s menu, including any new items being featured. They also integrate technology by using an online menu system to reach students on their Chromebooks. In addition, the school kicked off National Nutrition Month in March by staffing a table with a chef and dietitian during lunch periods, reporting that students loved being able to try different samples and were excited about healthy options available to them.
With all of the changes the school leadership team has made, breakfast participation has increased by 47%, and Warren Central is now feeding close to 1,000 students a day. Since adding the new cart, the team is also newly energized to continue making strides in helping students start their day with a healthy breakfast. Haley Quade, resident dietitian, said they serve breakfast each day in hopes that it will equip their students for success when they enter the classroom.
“The team continues their plans to feed more students free breakfast and won’t give up until that goal is accomplished,” she said. “We are going to have a plan of action over the summer on how we can better advertise breakfast to start the next school year off on the right foot!”