HSC caught up with Danny Seymour, dean of education for School Nutrition Association (SNA) to discuss breakfast in the classroom. He oversees education programs in SNA across the country. Prior to this role, Seymour served 36 years in the food service management industry where he saw nearly every aspect of school nutrition programming, operations, and policy advocacy.
Seymour has made several observations after visiting school sites where breakfast in the classroom is available. He notes that some of the teachers’ initial concerns were that kids would be noisy and difficult to control, but they have not seen those issues.
“The message is the same: it’s been a great program. The kids come in, it helps calm them down, and it gets them ready to learn when instructional time begins,” he said.
One of the benefits of the program, he said, is that children have the opportunity to start the day off with a nutritious well-balanced meal.
“It is important for them to have good nutrition to begin the school day because we’re looking for academic achievement. Breakfast in the classroom support that,” he said. Seymour adds that the program “gets kids ready to learn when instruction begins and that has helped teachers tremendously. It has increased their learning time, which has been a big plus.”
Often, breakfast is provided to students in their classes prior to big exams or important state-wide tests. Seymour poses the question, “if breakfast is important for one of those days in the school year, why isn’t it important for every day in the entire school year?”
“Again, it goes back to getting kids ready to learn,” he said. “We know nutrition supports everything we do, whether we’re children or adults. We need to afford that to our children so they have a good start academically so they’re ready to achieve and be successful in every area that they can.”
Danny also discussed surprises that come with any new initiative. Luckily, all the surprises he’s encountered have proved positive. “The surprises have been the benefits,” he said.
In particularly, one of the biggest surprises has been the cooperation at all levels. The most interesting of these is “that children come into the classroom, they seem to bond together, they do constructive projects, and they may be working on a craft item. Many of them read. Teachers have said this is wonderful. It gives them the opportunity to calm down. [Teachers say,] I don’t have to spend the first ten or fifteen minutes of my instructional day trying to get them in order and get them ready to be attentive and learn in class.”
Seymour thinks of breakfast in the classroom in the larger context of children’s health and education efforts across the nation. “We need to make better efforts to have healthier children in this country and better educated children because that’s where our future lies,” he said. “If we don’t recognize this, then shame on us."
Many thanks to Danny Seymour for taking the time to talk with us about breakfast in the classroom. To learn more about the School Nutrition Association, please visit www.schoolnutrition.org.
Plus! Visit www.BreakfastMatters.org to learn about the Breakfast in the Classroom initiative in Chicago and hear the stories of principals who have seen the program in action in their schools.