Breakfast Fills a Basic Need

Millions of kids in America face the school day on an empty stomach. But hungry kids can’t learn. Simply making breakfast a part of the school day changes everything. This spring, we are on track to announce one million more kids are eating school breakfast! This accomplishment is only possible because of the hard-working school leaders in communities across the country.

In honor of National School Breakfast Week, we bring you today’s School Breakfast Hero, Rodney Taylor, Food Service Director of Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia.

Traditional Breakfast Models Don’t Work

Rodney Taylor has over 40 years of experience in the food service industry.  He knows how to run a business.  He also lives and breathes his passion for feeding children.

Ask him about school breakfast programs and he will quickly tell you serving breakfast out of the cafeteria is not sustainable. “The traditional model of delivering breakfast is a failed model,” argues Taylor. “It runs 18 percent [participation] nationwide, that’s a failed narrative in any language.” Let him implement that same breakfast program in the classroom and he can get more than 90 percent of students participating! 

Breakfast Fills a Basic Need

Taylor believes making breakfast a part of the school day is the best way to help children learn and thrive in school. “Most people want to say we are providing breakfast,” he says. “We need to be pushing more if we are sincere about feeding children and improving academic performance. If we don’t meet basic needs, all the laptops and iPads in the world are not going to make any difference.” 

Girl doing homework

Develop the Recipe for Success

Taylor has a proven track record for success, through innovative meal program solutions, soaring breakfast participation, and huge revenue growth. Taylor’s greatest hurdle with breakfast after the bell is convincing teachers and administrators to give it a try. Here he shares a few strategies to win over decision makers and decision make-or-breakers: 

  • Buy some time: Offer to cater a key staff meeting in exchange for 15 minutes to pitch breakfast in the classroom. “If I can go from 18% to over 90% [participation in the breakfast program] and all I have to do is give teachers a free meal, you better believe my program can absorb that,” he says enthusiastically.  “More importantly if you get kids eating breakfast you are going to get them eating lunch!”  
  • Give teachers the royal treatment.  Allow teachers to dine on breakfast in the classroom for free.  “Consider this part of your marketing program.  It sends a powerful message when kids see them eating the same meal!” Taylor explains.
  • Speak the same language. According to Taylor, many teachers buy food on their own to combat their students’ morning tummy grumbles.  They deal with the daily disruptions and “stomach aches” so frequently caused by hunger.  Talk with teachers about obstacles they face to student learning and help them understand that breakfast is a solution.
  • Anticipate questions and concerns.  Try creating an instructional video to address some of the common misconceptions of breakfast in the classroom – trash, mess, lost instructional time – you know the ones.  Build extra buy-in by creating starring roles for your breakfast champion administrators, teachers, and students.