It’s National School Breakfast Week, and two Arizona school districts share how they make it easy for students to fuel up for learning before classes start.
Madison Elementary School District students can eat a healthy breakfast in school cafés about 30 minutes before classes begin, said Nicole Rodriguez, director of community relations and marketing for the Phoenix school district that serves nearly 6,000 students in pre-school through eighth grade at eight campuses.
“Selected grades and schools also have a Breakfast in the Classroom program, which provides an opportunity for students who have not already eaten a hot breakfast with us or have not had a chance to eat breakfast at home. This program gives students a chance to fuel up with us after the school bell rings and before their lunch period,” Rodriguez said.
About 24% of Madison Elementary School District students eat breakfast on campus, Rodriguez said.
National School Breakfast Week was created in 1989 by the School Nutrition Association to raise awareness about the school breakfast program and “the importance of a nutritious school breakfast in fueling students for success.”
The theme this year is “Take Off with School Breakfast.” The School Nutrition Association said it hopes to remind parents and school staff “that a healthy school breakfast helps ensure students’ academic success in school so they can take off and reach their goals.”
“For National School Breakfast Week, which our district celebrates each year, we will randomly select one student at each school in our district who eats breakfast with us during that week to receive a prize,” Rodriguez said.
The prize pack for students includes a gift card, activity sheets, and other breakfast and superhero-themed goodies, Rodriguez said.
In addition, Madison Elementary School District’s Food and Nutrition Services also adds new breakfast recipes each school year, Rodriguez said.
“This year, on the middle school breakfast menu, we have added our spin on a Monte Cristo sandwich as a Monte Cristo biscuit and red pepper frittatas,” Rodriguez said.
At all sites, Madison Elementary School District’s Food and Nutrition Services has added a variety of hot and cold sides that fuel students with additional protein – hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, cheese sticks – or starchy veggies like hash browns, Rodriguez said.
Mesa Public Schools offers Breakfast in the Classroom at 22 elementary schools. All other sites offer breakfast in the cafeteria, except for two schools that do not offer breakfast, said Heidi Hurst, director of communications and engagement for the largest school district in Arizona, which serves 64,000 students in preschool through 12th grade.
And a second chance breakfast is available at many junior high schools and at the comprehensive high schools, Hurst said.
“In January 2022, we served on average 13,645 breakfasts each day. Twenty three percent of our enrolled students participate in breakfast in our district,” Hurst said.
Today, the School Nutrition Association has asked Congress to extend COVID-19 pandemic waivers for the school meal programs that are set to expire on June 30, 2022, after learning that the omnibus spending bill does not contain the expected extensions that had bipartisan support.
During the pandemic these child nutrition waivers let schools offer free meals to all students, expand community meal service, and reimbursed free meals at a higher rate due to increased food prices, supply chain issues, and personnel costs.
Many school districts across the nation continue to face these higher food prices, supply chain issues and staffing issues according to School Nutrition Association’s 2021 Supply Chain Survey released in November, which indicated that 97% of school meal programs reported challenges with higher costs –nearly 75% called it a “significant challenge” – and 95%