It’s been a long time since Michigan lawmakers had to wake up before the sun rose to make it to class in time for the first bell, but on March 9, a group of local and state legislators headed back to school for an important reason: breakfast.
During National School Breakfast Week, United Way for Southeastern Michigan and officials at Hazel Park High School invited legislators out to see first-hand the mobile food carts that have helped the school triple the number of students who eat breakfast at school.
State Sen. Stephen Bieda, state Reps. Jim Ellison and Robert Wittenberg, and Oakland County Commission Chair Dave Woodward and Commissioner Helaine Zack looked on as student after student grabbed granola bars, apples and muffins before heading to class. Fruit smoothies—a new offering at the school—were a clear favorite.
“We know the importance of breakfast, but to see this up close and personal is great,” said Rep. Whittenberg. “It’s so simple, and I don’t see why we can’t do this in all of our schools.”
For more than two years, we’ve worked to grow school breakfast participation at several Michigan schools using tactics like serving breakfast in the classroom and offering breakfast to kids as they enter the building.
Hazel Park High School first rolled out its breakfast carts in March of 2017. With United Way’s funding and support, the number of students eating breakfast at school each day grew from 105 to 334.
And as part of our work to ensure every child grows up healthy, we are working to replicate the success in multiple high-need schools and collect data and success stories to share best practices across the state.
Support from lawmakers is key to growing school breakfast in Michigan.
“When you hear about breakfast being served in the hallways and eaten in classrooms, you think it’s going to be chaotic and messy, but it’s not,” explained Sara Gold, Healthy Kids director for United Way. “The program speaks for itself, and that’s why we wanted legislators to see it.”
Commissioner Zack hopes that the success seen in Hazel Park can serve as a model for other schools.
“Our goal is to have every school in Oakland County adopt this model,” she said. “We want to be a partner in championing this.”
Hazel Park school officials are excited to share their success, too. But at the end of the day, Principal Matthew Dailey said, they’re just happy to see their students more alert and engaged in class.
“Eating breakfast starts kids off on the right foot,” he said. “We want to take care of the pieces we don’t always see on the transcript.”