RD232 - Report on Alternative School Breakfast Service Models – August 1, 2018

Executive Summary:

*This report was replaced in its entirety by the Department of Education on August 15, 2018.

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." These models may include breakfast in the classroom, grab and go breakfast, or breakfast after first period.

The 2017 Appropriation Act provided $1.1 million in state funds for the operation of breakfast after the bell programs in fiscal year 2018 in eligible schools. To be eligible, a school must serve elementary grades and have more than 45 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced meals. State reimbursement of five-cents ($0.05) per reimbursable meal served was allotted to each approved school in a division (see Appendix A for language from 2017 Appropriation Act).

Seven hundred sixty-four schools applied for funding and 450 schools across 83 school divisions were selected to receive funding in school year 2017-2018. VDOE gave priority to elementary schools with total student eligibility for free or reduced price meals greater than 45 percent and schools that planned to implement an alternative breakfast service model throughout the entire school. Of the 450 participating schools in 2017-2018, 195 schools (43 percent) also received state funding last year and 189 schools (42 percent) received state funding for the last two years. School year 2015-2016 was the first year state funding was available.

The VDOE requested data from participating schools to: (1) assess the impact of the program on student attendance and discipline; (2) capture superintendents’, principals’, teachers’, and school nutrition staff members’ perceptions of the program, and (3) estimate the fiscal impact of the program on a select number of schools. Additionally, this report summarizes data collected by VDOE on program participation through breakfast meals served. In the fall, VDOE will release a supplement to this report that documents the program's impact on student achievement, as measured through state assessments in reading and mathematics.

There are three main findings from this evaluation:

• Schools receiving state funding provided additional breakfast opportunities to students and increased the average number of breakfast meals served per student. Schools receiving funding for the first time in 2017-2018 increased breakfast meals served by six percent compared to the previous school year. Superintendents, school nutrition directors/cafeteria managers, and principals supported alternative breakfast service models.

• Survey participants perceived positive impacts on school breakfast participation, the nutritional quality of students’ breakfasts, student hunger and the stigma associated with school breakfast program participation. Participating schools also demonstrated declines in student tardiness. However, results must be interpreted with caution given the small sample size.

• Based on an analysis of expenditures and revenues for select schools, the cost per breakfast meal served decreased in most schools following the implementation of the alternative breakfast program, offsetting additional food, staff, and equipment costs, and indicating a more efficient use of program staff and resources.

Schools implementing alternative breakfast service models see an increase in the number of breakfast meals served per student and report a decrease in student hunger in the morning. The majority of schools examined for fiscal impact demonstrated decreased meals costs after implementation, indicating a more efficient use of staff and resources. The long-term impact of the program on attendance and discipline requires further study. Lessons learned from schools participating in alternative breakfast programs can be incorporated into trainings and technical assistance provided to schools that chose to implement similar programs in the future.