RD242 - Report on Alternative School Breakfast Service Models – August 1, 2016

Executive Summary:
**Please see RD29 (2017),
https://rga.lis.virginia.gov/Published/2017/RD29 , for an important addendum to this report, "Addendum to the Report on Alternative School Breakfast Service Models – January 12, 2017."

Alternative school breakfast service models provide meals to students through a distribution method different from traditional cafeteria service, removing various obstacles that can prevent students from accessing school breakfast. The most effective alternative breakfast models allow students to eat their meal after the official start of school day, commonly known as “breakfast after the bell.”

In fiscal year 2016, $537,297 in state funds were available through a competitive application process to support implementation of alternative breakfast service models or expand traditional breakfast service by providing a reimbursement of $0.05/meal to participating schools. More than 550 schools applied for funds, and 244 schools across 52 divisions were selected to receive funding. Of those, 226 received reimbursements for participation in the one-year alternative breakfast service pilot, and 17 schools used the funding to expand traditional breakfast service.(*1)

The Virginia Department of Education requested data from participating schools to: (1) assess the impact of the program on student attendance and behavior; (2) capture principals’ and teachers’ perceptions of the program; and (3) document the costs of implementation. The program’s impact on student achievement, measured through performance on Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, and data on school nutrition program revenues will be provided as an addendum to this report when data are available for analysis (anticipated September 2016).

There are three main findings from this evaluation:

• Schools receiving state funding provided additional breakfast opportunities for students that school administration, teachers, and staff supported. Participating schools provided an additional 1,266,555 meals to students during the pilot year, a 13.6 percent increase from the previous year. Schools implementing breakfast in the classroom significantly increased the number of meals served per student compared to schools implementing traditional breakfast service only. Nearly all principals and assistant principals and 67 percent of teachers who completed the feedback survey reported being supportive of the alternative school breakfast program.

• School-level outcome metrics showed promising but non-significant results on the impact of alternative school breakfast service models. Principals, teachers, and other school staff were unsure about the specific program impact on student behavior, attendance, health, and academic performance. Between the baseline year and the pilot year, schools implementing alternative school breakfast programs saw increases in attendance and decreases in tardiness and office discipline referrals. These differences, however, were not statistically significant. More than 75 percent of principals, teachers, and cafeteria/nutrition managers agreed that more students were eating breakfast and fewer students were hungry in the morning. However, more than 40 percent of school staff were unsure about the program’s impact on student behavior, attendance, health, or academic performance.

• School staff reported few challenges during implementation of the alternative school breakfast program, and the implementation costs for most schools were minimal. Support from school administrators, parents, students and cafeteria staff were the least commonly identified barriers and disruptions in morning routines and limited janitorial staff were the most commonly identified barriers. More than half of schools reported no additional costs for program implementation. Among schools reporting costs, 40 percent reported costs for smallwares and supplies, 32 percent reported salary costs, 18 percent reported costs for capital equipment, and 11 percent reported benefits costs.

The VDOE recommends continued financial support for schools interested in implementing alternative school breakfast programs. The VDOE anticipates providing additional support to schools through technical assistance and sharing of best practices to build capacity for the program and address identified barriers to implementation.
(*1) One school declined participation in the alternative breakfast service models pilot after being selected.