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Schools have Accepted the New Hampshire Breakfast Challenge

More than 200 New Hampshire schools have something new to be proud of. They have started the journey to improve the health and well-being of their student body by accepting the New Hampshire School Breakfast Challenge.

In October 2013, the NH School Breakfast Challenge partners, New Hampshire Kids Count, School Nutrition Association of New Hampshire, New England Dairy & Food Council and the NH Department of Education, challenged NH schools to increase their breakfast program participation by 25 percent over two years.

According to the 2013 Food Research Action Center’s School Breakfast Scorecard, NH ranked 50th out of 51 states/territories for school breakfast participation for low-income students who also participate in school lunch. The NH School Breakfast Challenge is aimed at improving this statistic and is designed to give the state’s schools the jumpstart they need to fuel school breakfast participation.

Individually, the NH School Breakfast Challenge partners all work to achieve a similar goal which is to ensure that all students get the nutritious foods they need to be healthy and successful. The creation of the NH School Breakfast Challenge allows the partners to pool our strengths and minimize our limitations so that the greatest impact could be made.

Some examples of our collaborative work together include:

  • Hosting the NH School Breakfast Launch event. This was held at North Hampton School, which has a with low free and reduced lunch population. This was done specifically to promote the need for school breakfast for every child. We revitalized the call to action halfway through Year One with Fuel Up to Play 60’s “It Starts with School Breakfast” campaign event hosted at Dr. Crisp Elementary School.
  • Launching the website. This website was designed to be one-stop shopping for schools and breakfast supporters. It contains information and resources such as NH Kids Counts “What’s for Breakfast?” and Share Our Strength’s School Meals Calculator  notifications for funding opportunities like Fuel UP to Play 60 grants from the New England Dairy & Food Council.
  • Conducting on-going outreach, both broad-based and targeted, to school nutrition and other school professionals to promote the importance of school breakfast and the resources that exist to increase participation.
  • Providing recognition opportunities for schools that are meeting and exceeding the challenge on the NH School Breakfast Challenge website and through the media.

Lilly Ayotte, Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador, talks with student at Dr. Norman Crisp Elementary School in Nashua, N.H., for the "It Starts With School Breakfast" event.

At our Year One mid-point evaluation, 204 schools (nearly half of all the state’s schools) reported an increase in breakfast participation at some level, and 38 schools increased breakfast participation beyond the challenge goal of 25 percent for both free and reduced and paid students. These results are all very promising and show that the Challenge is taking hold and making a difference.

In August, the top 11 achieving schools were more formally recognized by the New Hampshire School Breakfast Partners at the state Department of Education’s Annual Review and Training Conference.  Three School Nutrition Directors, Doris Demers, (Oyster River High School, Durham), Barbara Schultz (William E. Lancaster School, Salem), and Phil Dallon (Newfound Memorial Middle School, Bristol) shared their thoughts about why they were successful.

A central theme for success in increasing breakfast was the importance of staff being "hands on" and having staff like the nutrition manager being out there in the morning talking to kids, encouraging them to try menu samples, getting to know the kids and building relationships.  All three School Nutrition Directors have plans for next year to keep their breakfast participation momentum going. 

One of the strategies Doris talked about was starting a breakfast cart at the middle school during 1st block.  Phil talked about piloting Breakfast in the Classroom, and Barbara mentioned working to bring Grab and Go right to where the bus pulls up in the morning.   

This snap shot of success is encouraging, but there is more work to be done.  The New Hampshire School Breakfast Challenge team is gearing up for another year of outreach, funding opportunities and school support.  We are anxiously awaiting our next group of top achievers and expect to recognize many more schools that meet and exceed the Challenge.