By Michael S. Turley, Co-Founder, SOMMA Foods
Foodies have prophesied that this year’s breakfasts will include jackfruit, chocolate and a return to pancakes. While we may or may not see Jackfruit in schools this year, one thing that is certainly not a passing trend is the focus on creating conditions that set our children up for success.
We see a few major breakfast trends, which have admittedly been built upon years of research and leadership from larger school districts, but are now being adopted by medium-sized school districts across the U.S.
1. Increased Demand for School Breakfast
The Food and Research Action Council estimates that a record of more than 12 million students, who were eligible to receive free and reduced-price school meals, ate breakfast at school for the 2015-16 school year. That was an increase of more than 433,000, nearly a 4 percent increase as compared to the prior year, and it is more than double the number 20 years ago.
Some 14.6 million students eat breakfast every school day at 90,000 public schools across the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA reports that roughly 2.5 billion breakfasts are now being served every school year, again more than double the number 20 years ago.
This steady increase has been credited to greater awareness of the importance of breakfast, to innovative food service models, and also to the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which was expanded nationwide in 2014. CEP, a federal program, reimburses schools that serve a free breakfast to all, where 40 percent of the student body qualifies for federal food assistance.
If you want to know how your school district measures up in delivering breakfast to students, read the Food Research & Action Center’s report “School Breakfast Scorecard.”
2. Adopting Innovative Ways to Serve Students
Not all students are able to arrive to school with enough time to eat breakfast in a cafeteria before the first bell. Even of those who can, many feel that eating breakfast in the cafeteria marks them as being poor, and therefore stigmatizes them against eating breakfast no matter how much effort has been exerted to make the meal the healthiest and tastiest.
First piloted by New York City and other large urban school districts in 2008, more and more medium-sized school districts are offering Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC). Years of research shows that students who eat breakfast at school achieve higher scores, miss fewer days of school, and remain focused on learning. Under a BIC model, breakfast is delivered to the classroom, where all students, no matter their family’s income level, have the opportunity to eat breakfast at no cost.
The Dallas Independent School District, a district that SOMMA serves, first introduced BIC into elementary schools and middle schools in 2011, and extended this model to all of its 160,000 students, from pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade, in the 2015-16 school year. Now school districts surrounding the Dallas area are implementing their own BIC programs.
In another effort to bring breakfast to students, food kiosks are being deployed by some school districts, into hallways, in courtyards, and at drop-off locations. This model of delivery is most popular in high schools, where not all students start the day at the same time. Many of the BIC schools have also implemented this scheme to catch those students who would otherwise miss breakfast.
Organizations such as Share Our Strength are doing great things to support schools and communities in their pursuit to make breakfast more available. Investing in these organizations supports kids in your community by supporting your local school district’s efforts.
3. More Locally Sourced, Clean Label Options
With supermarkets like Whole Foods continuing to take off in popularity, and consumers reading labels now more than ever, locally sourced and clean label foods are in high demand. “Clean label,” which means essentially no artificial and synthetic ingredients, could very well be the trend of the year.
Locally sourced and clean label foods are not just for well-heeled restaurants and celebrity chefs. A number of school districts and even some state governments are supporting efforts through a variety of departments to bring local farm fresh and unmodified products to their students.
The Texas Department of Agriculture launched Farm Fresh Fridays to inspire schools to serve locally sourced produce on Fridays. At Austin Independent School District, Farm Fresh food is served Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and accounts for 47 percent of their total food spending. Austin ISD plans to expand buying local to 65 percent of the total food budget.
Our business model at SOMMA Foods is based on providing clean label chicken, beef and dairy products to school districts, for breakfast and lunch. Our Chickentopia products – corndogs, chicken tenders and more – are from chickens raised on a 100% veggie diet, with no antibiotics ever and zero growth promotants. Merrywood Farms includes clean label dairy products, such as yogurt parfaits, perfect for breakfast.
To find out more about how we can provide nutritious, clean label products for your school district’s breakfast and lunch, contact us at 214.984.3600 or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.