5 Ways to Increase Breakfast Participation - McKee Foods

5 Ways to Increase Breakfast Participation

5 Ways to Increase Breakfast Participation

Fieldstone Bakery recently partnered with Foodservice Promotion to survey 500 school professionals across the United States. When asked what advice they would offer their colleagues at other school nutrition departments, there were 5 prevalent themes. Below we focus on the first four themes. Check back soon for the fifth series.

#1: Involve Students

Getting Students Involved in the breakfast program is the single, most important element to its success.

Talk to the kids. Proactively engage the students as they come through the line for feedback on items being served that day or foods they would like to see on the menu. Be positive and provide friendly service. You will learn a lot through their engagement. Here are a few other ways to get student feedback and suggestions for your breakfast program:

  • Add a Suggestion Box or “My Favorite Breakfast” Post It Board
  • Sample new products with your students and pair with a simple thumbs up / thumbs down survey.
  • Survey students with a “Vote & Be Heard” promotion annually or semi-annually. This can be done as a paper survey or an online survey. Surveys can be eye-opening. One school thought their students wanted hot traditional items, but they actually wanted grab and go items that they could keep for later when they were hungry. If feedback remains anonymous, students may be more honest about why they do or do not participate in your program.
  • Have a formal discussion on a quarterly basis with focus groups of students, various classes or grade levels, or a more formal Council made up of selected students, staff and parents.

Your kids are your valued customers. Listen to what they have to say, and serve them what they like. They might not always get what they want on the menu, but when they feel like they have input, more students will eat breakfast.

#2: Offer Variety & Choices

Offer a variety of choices daily to make sure that as many preferences are covered as possible. When you can allow more options, you obtain more participation.

Include something hot, something cold that is easy to take with them, and something with protein like yogurt parfaits or smoothies in your daily offerings. While parfaits and smoothies are not the biggest sellers, they fit a niche because students perceive them as healthier options.

Feature two hot entree choices daily, and cereal every day. Also, give the students an option of grab & go bags with muffins, cereal bars, bagels, and/or banana bread. Many schools report increasing choices of hot and cold items at their high schools with multiple ways to create a reimbursable breakfast.

Cereal is easy and convenient and can make a positive impact on breakfast participation. One participant in the survey said, “By offering a cereal every day, the die-hard cereal eaters eat breakfast daily. It has increased our breakfast participation by about 30%.”

Rotate new items into the mix more frequently. Consider a longer menu cycle than every two weeks.

On occasion, test new breakfast themes that students will be interested in such as Breakfast Buffet Days when they can choose from several different items or “Create Your Own” themes applicable to Parfaits, Waffles, Scrambled Eggs, or Smoothies – offering the students the ultimate choice and control over their breakfast options.

#3: Bring Breakfast To The Students

Think outside the serving line. Find ways to bring breakfast to the students. Here are a few ideas:

  • Grab & Go Breakfast. Students do not want to go to the cafeteria in the morning, especially older students who are often late. Offer grab & go breakfast to students as they get off the bus or walk to the building. Use mobile carts and kiosks to serve grab & go items in the hallways or convenient locations that the students pass in the mornings. You can apply for equipment grants or ask local sponsors to help with purchasing serving equipment to bring the meal to the students.
  • Breakfast in The Classroom (BIC). Many survey participants reported that breakfast in the classroom doubled their numbers, or helped the financial stability of their food program. One individual stated that BIC at the elementary level is HUGE: “We purchased totes for the Elementary Schools and put them in each classroom. Once the kids get to school, they can still participate in walking club or going to a teacher for help etc., then go to their classroom to get a tote, go to the kitchen to get breakfast then return to the class and eat while morning meetings happen.

Breakfast in the Classroom takes the stigma away from having to go to the cafeteria to eat breakfast. One district found at two of their elementary schools, students didn’t go to the cafeteria for breakfast because they didn’t want their friends to think they were getting free meals.

#4: Give Breakfast A Second Chance

Many kids don’t want to eat first thing in the morning, or they are too late to sit and eat breakfast. Second chance breakfast could be a great solution for schools to better prepare students to learn. Several survey participants highly recommended the option. Here are a few of their comments:

  • “Second Chance Breakfast doubled our breakfast numbers at our high schools.”
  • “…helped increase our participation at secondary schools by 30%”
  • “Second Chance Breakfast in the hall will increase participation.”
  • “You have to try it, even if it is just as a pilot.”
  • “Definitely offer the second breakfast. We have almost tripled our sales by offering this.”
  • “Second Chance Breakfast has been a great option for us at the High School level because it allows students who are running late or don’t like to eat as soon as they get to school in the morning the opportunity to have a meal.”

This solution is recommended for high schools specifically. Offer this option after the first block of classes, but be sure not to offer it too late in the morning because it might cause your lunch numbers to decrease.

#5: Promote. Promote. Promote

There are three groups of people you need to promote your breakfast program to: the students, the parents and the administration. They all play a critical role in the success of your program. Many schools reported promoting breakfast via posters, flyers, social media, the school website, and newsletters.


  • Let students know what’s for breakfast. Stand at the door where students enter and tell them what’s featured on the breakfast line. Ask your principal to announce the next day’s breakfast offerings during afternoon announcements. Tell the students at lunch “See you at breakfast tomorrow.”
  • Plan breakfast events that might include games, coloring or challenges with small giveaways.
  • Advertise directly to students using posters. Parents don’t always think to share the information with their children.


  • Educate parents about the breakfast program. Have food demos and information at Open Houses. Promote menus via the website, social media or emails to keep them informed. Have parents participate in committees offering feedback about your menu. Compare what a student can get at school compared to stopping at the local convenience store and getting a piece of breakfast pizza that costs much more than a healthy balanced breakfast at school.

Administration and Staff

  • You’ll need the support of your school administration and staff for any of these programs to be successful. For example: breakfast in the classroom only works with administrator support. Include them in committee meetings. Invite them to food samplings. Feature a “breakfast with the principal.” And keep important statistics in front of them.
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