RD476 - Report on Alternative School Breakfast Service Models – October 11, 2019

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

The 2019 Appropriation Act provides $1.074 million in state funds for the operation of alternative school breakfast service models implemented in the 2018-2019 school year. To receive funds, schools must have more than 45 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced meals. Previously, state funding was only available to elementary schools. For the first time in 2018-2019, secondary schools were also eligible to receive funding. State reimbursement of five cents ($0.05) in elementary schools and ten cents ($0.10) in secondary schools per reimbursable meal served was allotted to each approved school in a division (see Appendix A for language from the 2019 Appropriation Act).

For the 2018-2019 school year, 325 schools within 66 school divisions were selected to receive funding. Of the 325 participating schools, 179 schools were elementary schools and 146 schools were secondary schools or centers. In addition, 170 of the 325 participating schools received state funding for alternative breakfast service models for the first time in 2018-2019 and 155 schools received state funding previously.

The VDOE analyzed available administrative data and requested additional data from participating schools to: (1) capture perceptions of the program from division administrators, principals, teachers, and school nutrition staff members; (2) assess the impact of the program on student attendance, discipline, and achievement; and (3) estimate the fiscal impact of the program on first year funded schools

There are three main findings from this evaluation:

• Schools receiving state funding for alternative breakfast programs increased the average number of breakfast meals served per student in the first year of implementation by eight percent. Schools receiving multiple years of state funding were able to sustain increases in meals served over time.

• Division and school staff were satisfied with the alternative school breakfast models implemented in their schools and perceived positive impacts on student hunger and the stigma associated with school breakfast program participation. Program impact on self-reported student tardiness and office discipline referrals was mixed, but participating schools showed promising improvements in chronic absenteeism and student achievement.

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