RD6 - Report on Alternative School Breakfast Service Models – December 2017

Executive Summary:

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."

Item 139 Paragraph C.30. of the 2017 Appropriation Act provided $1.1 million in fiscal year 2017 state funds to operate the Breakfast After the Bell model pilot program in eligible elementary schools. Seven hundred and sixty-six schools applied for pilot funding and 463 schools across 84 school divisions were selected to receive funding in school year 2016-17.

The evaluation team requested data from participating schools receiving funds to: (1) assess the impact of the program on student attendance and behavior; and (2) capture superintendents’, principals’, teachers, and school nutrition staffs’ perceptions of the program. Additional data were provided by the VDOE on School Breakfast Program participation and state assessment results.

There are four main findings from this evaluation:

Schools receiving state funding provided additional breakfast opportunities for students. Alternative breakfast service models were generally supported by superintendents, school nutrition directors/cafeteria managers, and principals. Nearly 80 percent of principals, teachers, school nutrition directors or cafeteria managers, and superintendents who completed the feedback survey reported being satisfied with the program overall and approximately 89 percent were supportive of the alternative school breakfast program.

School-level outcome metrics showed small but statistically significant decreases in attendance and increases in school nurse visits. Results must be interpreted with caution given the small sample size (see Appendix C for more detailed description of the sample size for analysis). Additionally, other factors that may affect the outcome variables were not controlled for within this analysis. Survey participants perceived positive impacts on participation, the nutritional quality of students’ breakfasts, hunger and stigma associated with School Breakfast Program participation. However, less than half of the survey respondents perceived the alternative breakfast service model positively impacted student academic performance, health, and behavior. Positive impacts from alternative breakfast service models may be limited to increased School Breakfast Program participation and decreased hunger.

Perceived barriers and costs to implementing alternative breakfast service models decreased from the 2015-2016 to the 2016-2017 school year. Relatively few of the surveyed stakeholders identified common challenges as barriers to implementing an alternative breakfast service model. The percent of principals, teachers, school nutrition staff, and superintendents perceiving common challenges to not be a barrier to implementing alternative breakfast model(s) increased from the 2015-2016 to the 2016-2017 school year. The percent of surveyed stakeholders identifying extreme or moderate barriers decreased from the 2015-2016 to the 2016-2017 school year.

Of the schools that participated in the pilot program and for which assessment data were available, 41 percent (192 schools) demonstrated an increase in breakfast meals served and an increase in one or both state reading or math assessment pass rates, compared to the 2015-2016 school year. Most schools that received two years of funding showed greater growth in meals served and pass rates in the first year of implementation and were able to maintain those gains through the second year. Stable pass rates on reading and math statewide may have contributed to the limited number of pilot-funded schools demonstrating an impact on student achievement.

Alternative breakfast service models can be highlighted to schools as a way to increase School Breakfast Program participation and decrease child hunger. Lessons learned from schools participating in alternative breakfast programs should be incorporated into training information and technical assistance provided to other schools.