Salem: Breakfast After the Bell Bewitches Students
Massachusetts currently ranks 39th in the nation for breakfast participation; Salem Public Schools hopes to change that by leading the effort for improved childhood nutrition.
A flagship city of the Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education By All Means: Redesigning Education to Restore Opportunity initiative, Salem has taken an innovative, comprehensive approach to identifying and eliminating the link between children’s socioeconomic status and achievement.
At the start of school year 2013-2014, Salem Public Schools (SPS) and the Eos Foundation teamed up to introduce breakfast in the classroom programming in four elementary schools: Bates, Bentley, Carlton, and Horace Mann Laboratory. Start-up funding for the pilot program was provided by a generous $50,000 grant from the Eos Foundation’s Nourishing Kids Initiative.
Since then, Salem Public Schools has renewed its commitment to addressing food insecurity and serving healthy breakfast at the start of the school day by expanding its pilot program to six schools with administration support for district-wide implementation.
The benefits showed immediately, as Mayor of Salem and Chair of the Salem School Committee Kimberley Driscoll recently testified
“hunger in our classroom has a real and tangible impact on our kids, both in terms of educational attainment and social well-being. We know and have seen the positive impacts that our after the bell breakfast has had on academic achievement, attendance, and more.”
With nearly four out of five SPS students eligible for free or reduced price meals, the breakfast after the bell program provides critical nutrition to over 1,000 students every school day, while leveraging thousands of dollars in federal funding for their Food and Nutrition Services department.
Breakfast after the bell legislation is needed, however, says Superintendent of SPS Margarita Ruiz, because
“some superintendents, principals, and nutrition directors, as well as teachers, need to be nudged to push past their perceived fears associated with breakfast in the classroom. People will say that they fear: crumbs, spills, and mess; loss of learning time; adding one more thing to the list of teacher responsibilities. These are valid concerns. However, over 50 classrooms in Salem, and over 1,000 classrooms across the state have proven that it’s possible to work through these concerns to do what’s best for children.”