Breakfast is generally considered to be the most important meal of the day. And while your mileage may vary depending on what’s on the menu, the adage is especially true when applied to kids. In fact, research indicates that kids who consistently eat breakfast are more likely to show up for school and less likely to visit the school nurse or to get into trouble. (They even tend to bring home better report cards.) For all these reasons, Austin Independent School District (AISD) is committed to increasing students’ access to a nutritious meal at the start of their school day, and to making that meal tasty, easy to eat and free of charge. AISD’sBreakfast in the Classroom program—currently expanding from eight AISD campuses to 29 campuses this year—offers just that: optional, free, healthy breakfast choices prepared by cafeteria staff and delivered directly to classrooms, room-service-style.
Why the classroom? While breakfast has long been offered in AISD cafeterias (with 64 campuses currently qualifying for free breakfast), delivering it to the classroom means kids are more likely to eat it. “When we moved breakfast from the cafeteria to the classroom, we saw about a 50 percent increase in participation,” says Anneliese Tanner, nutrition and food services director for AISD. In fact, since the program began, AISD is serving 4,500 more breakfasts per day than in previous years.
Students can choose from a variety of foods, many of which are sourced locally and sustainably. “In most districts, ‘breakfast’ is a packaged product,” explains Tanner. “But we’re doing a lot of scratch cooking, so we’re making kolaches, parfaits, breakfast sandwiches, chia bars and bagels and really trying to take it in a much healthier direction.” In addition, locally grown fruits, such as watermelon, apples and oranges, are offered at least three times a week, scratch-made menu items containing eggs are prepared using Austin-based Vital Farms eggs from pasture-raised chickens and there’s a vegetarian option every day. AISD is also introducing seasonality into the mix with fall, winter and spring menus. “These cycles help to introduce new flavors to students, while educating them on the food system by integrating local seasonal produce,” Tanner says.
As part of the district’s strategic plan, the program will continue to expand: Any campus with 60 percent or more of students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals can apply. That’s good news for kids in AISD and for all our futures.
By Anne Marie Hampshire. For more, visit austinisd.org/nutritionfoodservices or call 512-414-0251.