School District Marks Expanded Breakfast Programs, Part of the District’s Overall Effort to Improve Attendance

Posted on January 9, 2018
Categories: News from SDP

Francis Scott Key Elementary a stellar example of positive impacts of the program

PHILADELPHIA —  On Tuesday, January 9, Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia, Councilwoman Helen Gym, Councilman Mark Squilla and other officials visited Francis Scott Key Elementary School to mark increased participation in its breakfast program and how it is linked to a boost in attendance.

“Having breakfast to start the day not only helps our students grow and succeed, it helps families ensure their child is in school, on time and ready to learn,” said Dr. Hite. “We are pleased to see that the expanded breakfast program is contributing to improvements in attendance at Key Elementary and other schools across the District.”

The School District’s Operations Division provides free daily breakfast meals to all schools. It has recently expanded the program to offer breakfast in classrooms and “grab and go” hallway service, where students can easily grab breakfast items from a cart located in the school hallways or as they enter the school building. Breakfast may also be served in school cafeterias or multipurpose rooms. Schools are provided the opportunity to choose the delivery method that best meets their students’ needs. Members of City Council have voiced their support for the expanded breakfast program.

“I am proud to represent Francis Scott Key Elementary school and I am glad its breakfast program has experienced significant growth,” said Councilman Mark Squilla (1st District). “I am even more excited that there has also been an increase in attendance here and at other schools in our city. Going forward, I will continue to work with the School District to make sure more students start the day off with a good meal so they can be completely focusing on learning and growing.”

“I’m proud to stand with the School District and advocates to celebrate this important step towards making food access truly universal,” said Councilwoman Helen Gym (At Large). “Access to food is a human right, and I applaud the 71% [see below] of schools where the administration and teachers have stepped up to give kids what they really need — I’m looking forward to getting that up to 100%.”

Key Elementary is one of 30 target schools at which the School District is enhancing the breakfast program. Of those 30 schools, 28 of them have experienced an increase in breakfast participation — 17 of them have seen a 10% or more increase and 11 have had a 30% or more increase. Key’s participation has jumped 66%. Last school year, in the 30 targeted schools, the amount of students attending 95% of the time or more was 40%. This school year, through the end of November 2017, the amount of students attending 95% of the time or more has increased to 57%.

From these efforts the School District of Philadelphia has experienced the following gains in the breakfast program:

Improvement within the School District Breakfast Program

  • This school year 71% of our schools currently offer an alternative form of breakfast (Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab N Go Carts, Breakfast after the bell etc.), a 29% increase from last school year
  • This school year 116 schools offer some level of breakfast in the classroom, an increase of 33 schools when compared to the 83 which offered it last year
  • Among those numbers, this school year, 49 schools offer school wide breakfast in the classroom compared to 43 schools last year
  • This school year 66 schools offer breakfast through Grab N Go carts, an increase of 23 schools when compared to the 43 schools which offered it last year.
  • November 2017 data shows an average 4500 per day increase in breakfasts served (8% increase from November 2016)

During the  press conference, which was held in the cafeteria, a Key Elementary student was honored as an #AttendanceHero. Then the Key Elementary Student Breakfast Ambassadors, who help facilitate and promote breakfast service daily, helped guide officials to two classrooms to observe the breakfast in the classroom model. Principal Cheung has seen improvement in attendance and behavior since the program has been expanded.

“Through the Breakfast Program, our attendance has increased compared to the previous school year,” said Principal Cheung. “Students are more eager to get to school and after having eaten breakfast, they are more alert and are better prepared to start the instructional day.  Most importantly, the breakfast program is consistent.  It takes away the uncertainty for some students who wake up wondering if they will have breakfast in the morning — everyone receives breakfast at Key.”

In addition, organizations such as the Coalition Against Hunger, the American Dairy Association North East (ADANE), Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), Eat. Right. Now. and the Food Trust have been partners with the School District in expanding the breakfast program. Kathy Fisher from the Coalition Against Hunger was present on Tuesday as well.

“School breakfast is a critical, yet underutilized support for student health and learning,” said Kathy Fisher of the Coalition Against Hunger.  “The bottom line is that students cannot learn when they are hungry. We applaud Key’s administration and staff for their commitment to their students, for entering the Philadelphia School Breakfast Challenge, and for making changes that help many more students start the day ready to learn. We hope more and more Philadelphia schools will follow their lead.”