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Here’s a how-to on growing a breakfast program by seven fold

Friday, May 6, 2022
Students line up to receive Second Chance Breakfast at West Delaware Schools

Students line up to receive 2nd Chance Breakfast at West Delaware Schools

Anyone working in the field of childhood nutrition knows the value of a seed. On this National School Lunch Hero Day, as we honor and celebrate all who serve in such capacity, some stand out for their exceptional talent for imagining a veritable smorgasbord of possibility from a single seed. They are steadfast, nourishing the soil so the seed germinates, takes root, grows and flourishes, ultimately producing a feast for all, even when the seed was at first, just an idea.

Kim Sperfslage, food service director for West Delaware County Community School District, comes to mind when considering a hero’s work that produces successful outcomes for all students.

Overseeing the daily food service operations for approximately 1,500 elementary, middle and high school students, Sperfslage has worked in the industry for 17 years. She began her career working in the kitchen, then became a manager and for the past 12 years served as director.

Kim Sperfslage, Food Service Director for West Delaware Community School District

Kim Sperfslage, Food Service Director for West Delaware Community School District

“I read an article in the School Nutrition Association magazine that highlighted ‘second chance breakfast’ and I thought, ‘Wow! There are some important things here,’” Sperfslage said. “High school students are driving themselves to school, running late and rushing in and need to get to class. They are skipping that important breakfast meal they need to get through the morning. A good breakfast gives you good learning. So, I thought ‘second chance breakfast’ is something we could do to help the students.”

At that time, there were at most 30 students who participated in the school breakfast program. Sperfslage wanted to increase that number, especially since there are about 500 high school students. She thought there should be more opportunity for students to get breakfast, so she met with the food service manager at the high school to see if doing this type of thing was a possibility.

“Once my manager was on board with it, then I went to the high school principal,” she said. “I knew I needed to have the administration and teachers on board.”

The principal thought it was a great idea, surveyed the teachers and found the teachers agreed. Sperfslage also had the full support of district superintendent, Dr. Kristen Rickey, as well.

“The support was really there and that was what I needed to get this up and running,” Sperfslage said. “We knew it was going to be more labor hours and intensive in the kitchen but everybody was totally on board. So we started ‘second chance breakfast’ in December of 2019 prior to the COVID pandemic, and in our first month we were up over 100 students participating.”

Here’s how it works: West Delaware high school classes run on block scheduling. A first breakfast is offered to students before school starts. Then the next breakfast is offered after the first class period at about 9:20 a.m. Students have about 10 minutes of time between classes – a perfect opportunity for serving an additional breakfast.

Student participation kept increasing up to 150 students and the breakfast lines were so long that students were getting back to class late.

“I didn’t really have any teachers that were upset about it because they knew the importance of the students eating breakfast,” Sperfslage said. “The teachers were just kind of concerned.”

A few breakfast items offered during 2nd Chance Breakfast at West Delaware High School.

A few breakfast items offered during Second Chance Breakfast at West Delaware High School.

Enter the problem-solving abilities of those creative masters of the culinary arts. Since one serving line was just too long, it was decided to have two point-of-sale stations, serving breakfast from both the first floor level and second floor level of the high school building. Behind the scenes, an additional computer and point-of-sale system were acquired, electronic connections were solidified, and food and supply ordering received additional attention, especially in the face of supply chain disruptions. Now serving lines are shorter, but up to 200 students, sometimes more, enjoy a nutritious breakfast at the school.

“This would not have been able to happen if I did not have the support of the administration and the teachers who recognized how important this is to the students and learning,” Sperfslage said. “Everybody is so proud of the program. I have a great team. It is so fulfilling to have that much of an impact on students and their day. Feedback from the kids is they love it, they like to have that time. Their focus is better, their learning is better.”

The regular first breakfast menus are offered on a three-week rotation. At the second chance breakfast, in addition to the first breakfast menu foods, an additional alternate item is offered each day of the week. For example, Monday is a parfait, Tuesday is a long john, Wednesday is a breakfast tornado, Thursday is a cinnamon roll and Friday is sausage, egg and cheese. Fresh fruit is always offered.

Sperfslage says that seeing that participation rate going up, being able to reach out to kids and seeing them excited about coming for breakfast creates so much happiness and makes all the work that goes on behind the scenes well worth it.

“We were so excited as the numbers kept climbing that the labor-intensive stuff was easy,” Sperfslage said. “We were so thrilled to be able to reach out to those kids who weren’t eating breakfast. It gave us excitement and encouragement to be able to do more.”

All this, from the seed of an idea, from one special school lunch hero, brought to fruition by a team dedicated to the nutrition and welfare of children. Clearly, a well-balanced recipe for success.

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Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on July 05, 2022 at 4:01pm.