Kansas nonprofit notes success of Shawnee Mission breakfast program in reaching low-income students

Students picking up bagged breakfasts at Nieman Elementary. Photo credit Kansas Appleseed.

A recent report from Kansas Appleseed, a nonprofit organization focused on issues including childhood hunger and foster care, highlighted the Shawnee Mission School District’s trial of a breakfast program geared to providing meals to low-income students.

In April, the district started piloting a Grab and Go breakfast program at Nieman Elementary in Shawnee. Through the program, students can pick up a bagged breakfast from a rack near the school’s entrance on their way into the building for the day.

Kansas Appleseed considers Grab and Go and other “Breakfast after the Bell” programs, which aim to make breakfast more accessible by serving meals outside the cafeteria, a best practice for reducing student hunger.

“It has proven to be the most successful strategy for increasing school breakfast participation,” reads Appleseed’s report, which was issued last month. “These alternative service models overcome timing, convenience, and stigma barriers that get in the way of children participating in school breakfast and are even more impactful when they are combined with offering breakfast at no charge to all students.”

The group notes that overall breakfast consumption at Nieman Elementary increased as a result of the Grab and Go pilot. Appleseed also notes that Shawnee Mission’s decision to offer “Second Chance Breakfast” programs — which gives students the chance to get a meal after the first period of the day — at its high schools had resulted in overall breakfast program participation rates twice has high as before at some schools.

The report also compared overall breakfast program participation from 2015-16 to 2016-17, and noted that Shawnee Mission saw an overall increase of 4.4 percent.

Over that same period, Johnson County Districts like Blue Valley (-3.3 percent); Spring Hill (-9.8 percent); Gardner Edgerton (-10.4 percent); and DeSoto (-4.9 percent) saw overall participation decrease.

Olathe saw participation increase by 14.9 percent.