School Spotlight: Breakfast in Gervais

by Fatima Jawaid

It’s only 7:15 and Gervais Elementary School’s cafeteria is already a flurry of motion. Sounds of chatter and dishes clanking fill the air as children shuffle through the breakfast line with startling efficiency. A child is momentarily distracted by the important task of making faces with a nearby friend and a staff member gently nudges them forward. Another child stares intently at the beverage station before triumphantly brandishing a carton of milk in the air.

It’s just a day in the life for Melinda Fitz-Henry, the Food Service Manager for Gervais School District. And things are going well. Beginning in 2016, Fitz-Henry has been working hard to implement effective new strategies to engage more kids in participating in the School Breakfast Program.

It’s been a school-wide effort, Fitz-Henry says. The school has looked critically at what barriers existed that affect a child’s ability to access breakfast at Gervais schools, and they made changes. Faculty members are ready and waiting to guide the children to the cafeteria where they are required to pass through the line once.

Fitz-Henry also worked closely with school administration to extend the amount of time children have to eat. And for children who still arrive too late to access the cafeteria meal–there is a brown bag waiting for them and a designated spot for them to eat their meal.

The idea is too make sure no child is rushed through the breakfast process, Fitz-Henry says.

And the strategies are working. Over the last two years, participation is up at all three schools. Breakfast participation at the elementary school increased from 30 percent to well over half of students participating. For the middle school, participation has doubled. Second chance breakfast at the high school has more participation than the breakfast offered before the bell.

Breakfast is a powerful anti-hunger tool. Students who participate in school breakfast show improved attendance, behavior, and academic performance. And at the start of each and every day, Gervais School District is doing their part in making sure that students have access to a healthy, nourishing meal.