The Frisco ISD Child Nutrition Department sees its employees and school cafeterias as a fully functioning part of the educational process – right down to the milk or juice a child may drink before school starts.
At Bright Elementary School, cafeteria manager Kristine Coates has taken her staff’s role as educators, cheerleaders and nutrition experts to a new level of involvement in the everyday success of the classroom.
Coates wants her department to lead in the school’s goals of healthy eating, good behavior and school attendance. “It’s a Bright Breakfast” was her idea of how to get children to school early and get them eating a healthy breakfast.
“We were having some problems with tardies,” said Principal Susie Graham. “In just two weeks, the ‘It’s a Bright Breakfast’ program helped the number of tardies go from double digits to single digits.”
“It’s a Bright Breakfast” is a contest between grade levels. The students compete for having the most people come early to eat breakfast in the cafeteria. Each Friday, Coates announces the winner of the Bright Breakfast Totem Pole – a decorated pole topped with plastic fruits. The students may add stickers or artwork to the totem pole during their week of being winners in the breakfast contest.
Students can look at a chart that Coates posts on a door near the food line. It tells students which grade has the most people eating breakfast at school.
“Wednesday is our big day here, waffles!” Coates said. “Pancake and Sausage Monday is also a big day – but the yogurt parfaits we serve on Tuesday have turned out to be popular, too.”
“It’s a Bright Breakfast” began after the November time change. In just two weeks of promoting breakfast and the chance to win the honor of the Breakfast Totem Pole, the number of children eating breakfast at Bright went up about 30 percent, said Chris Bomberger, program director in the FISD Child Nutrition Department.
“Nationwide where there are schools with large breakfast program attendance, there are statistically less tardies,” said Child Nutrition Director Debera Tredennick. “All FISD schools offer breakfast and they are open for everyone to participate. Breakfast is not reserved for any one group of students.”
Tredennick hopes that as the breakfast program takes off at Bright, other campuses will encourage students to take advantage of the healthy and tasty breakfast offered at school.
“This is great for parents who are rushed in the morning, busy just trying to get everyone out of the door and to school on time,” she said. “If the students aren’t getting time to eat at home, they can eat at school.”
Studies show a good breakfast reduces absenteeism and improves cognitive function.
At Bright, Coates sees the breakfast program as a way the cafeteria can help a student do their best at school. But she has other plans, too.
Coates invites teachers to use a tour through the cafeteria kitchens and storage areas as a teaching tool. It can be used to teach health, science or social studies. Children can learn about proper nutrition, food preparation and storage, and about where food comes from.
FISD is involved in the farm to school program and uses many Texas grown fruits and vegetables – such as the Texas Ruby Red grapefruit – which is very popular at Bright.
Coates says students eat many fruits and vegetables that might surprise their parents.
“They love fruits and vegetables,” she said. “If a child doesn’t want to eat something, I invite him or her to try it with me. We sit down and taste it together. Usually the kids find they like the new fruit.”
The move to eat well and live a healthy lifestyle is a goal of all FISD schools. At Bright Elementary, the goal is also to start the day with a mind and body fueled and prepared for learning.