The Tukwila School District is now providing a second chance for all Foster High School students to receive a free breakfast to help jump start their brains and improve their ability to learn and retain knowledge.
The Second Chance Breakfast program is a new alternative breakfast format that allows students the option of having a free breakfast 30 minutes before school starts in the cafeteria, or nearly an hour and half later during a five minute passing time between their first and second period classes.
“The kids love it and the numbers support that”, said Craig Huckins, the district’s Food Service director of Dining Services. Huckins noted since the original pilot program started in early December the number of Foster students now enjoying a free breakfast has doubled, from an average of 225 per day to 450, or more than 50 percent of enrollment and just recently topped 475.
In March, the new program received national acclaim when the USDA presented Foster High School with its annual Breakfast Champions Food Service Award for Innovation. It has also generated interest from Washington State Representatives Mia Gregerson, Adam Smith and Zach Hudgins, who all visited Foster in April to view the program first hand.
Representative Hudgins is a longtime advocate of alternative breakfast formats for schools and the key sponsor of the landmark Washington Kids Ready to Learn Act (HB 1508) recently signed into law requiring all Washington state school districts with a 70 percent or higher Free & Reduced program to implement an alternate breakfast program by the 2019 school year.
Hudgins explained the newly passed bill “is an expanded version of the Breakfast After the Bell Bill” that he had unsuccessfully tried to pass through the legislature over the last several years and was “modeled after a very successful school breakfast program in the Tukwila School District.”
Huckins said the new program is “a hybrid of four different alternative breakfast formats being tested by districts nationally in an attempt to encourage traditionally disinterested teen aged students to eat breakfast, and it seems to be working.” Huckins continued, “our version is part traditional Breakfast Before the Bell, part Grab and Go, and part Breakfast in the Classroom as students now have a second chance to grab breakfast a little later in the morning, when they are more apt to be hungry and then are able to take it with them to eat during class or even later in the day as a snack if they want.”
Foster’s new principal, Megan McGroarty, who was integral in implementing the innovative serving format cited her school’s leadership team’s willingness to try something new.
“It was a collaborative effort, with all teachers having an opportunity to provide input and feedback before, during and after it started and our Kitchen Manger Lori Neville and her awesome food service team, listened and were flexible to fit our needs,” McGroarty said.
The new program at Foster puts the district ahead of the curve when it comes to complying with the new legislation as it already has an alternative breakfast program in place at all its schools to insure that all its students have an equal opportunity to start their day with a free breakfast, widely considered the most important meal of the day.
Studies have shown that students are more alert and engaged and miss less class time due to illness. Beth Paquette, the district’s registered nurse, said, “I am seeing far less students in my office with complaints of being hungry, or having stomach aches in the morning. They are staying in the classroom where they can learn better, because they are not hungry. This is a win-win for all!”