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Universal Breakfast with Healthy Vending Machines

Meriden Public School District
Meriden, Connecticut

Kids Eating in Lunch RoomMeriden Public School District in Meriden, Connecticut increased breakfast accessibility at the high school level, thanks to two breakfast grants from Action for Healthy Kids, made possible by the Kellogg Company Fund.

In 2010, the average daily breakfast participation was only 16.6%. In 2015, the district began implementation of alternative breakfast strategies and as a result participation leaped from 30.4% to 44.1% district-wide. Although the district started to see increased participation, high school participation lagged behind at only 30% of enrollment.

In 2016, Francis T. Maloney High School and Orville H. Platt High School applied for breakfast grants to increase breakfast opportunities for high school students. Each high school was awarded a $2,000 Kellogg’s Universal Breakfast Grant to purchase reimbursable vending machines. Susan Maffe, director of food and nutrition services for Meriden Public School District, said, “Vending reimbursable breakfast is a cost-effective and labor-efficient way to significantly increase participation and availability with minimal resources both before and after the bell.”

Thanks to the additional vending machines, the high schools now have eight points of service for breakfast, including the cafeteria, two grab and go carts and five reimbursable vending machines. In addition to increasing the points of service, the time for student access to breakfast was also extended because the reimbursable vending machines are open until 10 am, allowing more students to get breakfast after the bell. The additional vending machines were critical to the two high schools’ increased participation. In April 2017 32% breakfasts served daily at the high school level were served via the five vending machines.

Due to increased accessibility to breakfast, average daily participation at the high school level increased by 16.7% during the 2016-2017 school year and district wide participation increased by 7.4%. The district’s average daily participation is now 51.5% and the high school, at 46%, is not far behind.

During the fall 2016 teacher survey, teachers reported that increasing breakfast participation has increased student attention and learning levels. One teacher said, “I think the universal free breakfast is a great thing for our district. I am glad that all of my students are offered breakfast daily because without this program some students would not be eating. Having them eat at the start of their day is vital to their learning and focus throughout the day.”