in your School
With recent announcements by the Minister to increase funding both under the School Meals Programme and additional funds for free breakfasts for up to 180 non-DEIS Schools, many schools will be looking into the introduction of Breakfast Clubs in their school. In order to ensure your Breakfast Club is successful and is meeting the needs of students and parents, there are some essential planning steps to consider before rushing in:
Step 1: Establish the Need
First and foremost, is there a need for a breakfast club? A good way to find out is to send out a parent/student survey which can also serve as your recruitment tool for parents to volunteer and for students to join the breakfast club. You can also use the survey to help inform you on what kind of breakfasts students may prefer ; hot or cold, buffet style or serviced? Will the service be paid for or free?
Step 2: Funding
There are a couple of different options when it comes to funding your Breakfast Club. Firstly it’s important to establish your school’s eligibility for funding. For example, there are two types of scheme which receive funding under the Department of Social Welfare ‘School Meals Programme’ - check these out here
. There is also a EU School Milk Scheme operated by the Department of Agriculture - details here
However, if you do receive funding it’s likely only to cover part of the costs as statutory funding only covers the food item and you are likely to have other costs associated with equipment etc. To cover these costs, you could charge each student a small fee which can be paid on a daily or weekly basis or you can charge per item. You could also fundraise through the school to cover any initial equipment costs you may have- check out some fundraising ideas here or seek donations from some local businesses.
Step 3: Sourcing a Space & Supplies
Once the need is established, you will need to identify a suitable space to use. This can be the canteen in the school or a quiet classroom with easy access to toilet facilities and a kitchenette type space with running water, like the teacher's staff room. You may need to source the following supplies: cutlery, utensils, table cloths, a fridge, a toaster, a kettle (not suitable for primary aged children), a microwave, serving dishes for hot food ( depending on your needs) etc. You also need to consider where the food and equipment will be stored when not in use.
Step 4: Staffing the Breakfast Club
A Club Co-Ordinator supported by a steering committee, can help ensure an efficient Breakfast Club. Parents could also be asked (in your survey at Step 1) if they would be willing to volunteer on some mornings. Some older students may be able to help out too. If funds are available, school staff members could be employed and paid for additional work hours. School staff members may already have a rapport with the students and are a good choice for breakfast clubs. Whether you use volunteers or paid staff, you need to ensure you incorporate training into your planning process to ensure those involved are familiar with Food Safety and Hygiene, First Aid, Child Protection, Garda Vetting etc.
Step 5: Include Students in the Planning process
Using the results of your survey or from an assembly announcement, considering inviting students to the breakfast club meeting. Give the students an opportunity to have their say in how the breakfast club will work, what foods they like or dislike and hold a vote on what the club should call itself ( like the Early Birds or The Breakfast Bunch). The term ‘breakfast club’ may have some negative connotations as a club for disadvantaged students so renaming it could dispel these associations.
Step 6: Planning your menu
There are a range of food options to consider depending on your facilities, funding and staffing. For example if you have limited kitchen facilities, you could provide a straightforward breakfast of cereal, toast and fruit with fruit juice. If you have adequate facilities for cooking, washing and storage you may be in a position of offer some hot items each day such as eggs, beans etc. Whichever option you go for, it’s important to give some thought to the nutritional value of the foods you are going to provide, e.g. the types of cereal, bread etc. Having a Healthy School Food Policy
in place can be useful in this regard
Step 7: Keep it fun
To keep the children attending and involved in the Breakfast Club, consider what additional facilities or activities might enhance the club. For example, if your facilities allow, try introducing new foods the kids may not have tried before like avocado, grapefruit or chia seeds. Try out theme mornings like smoothie day or pancake mornings. Help the kids relax, for example kids and teens may find a chill out zone appealing where they can sit and chat when breakfast is over so having a few bean bags or comfy chairs in the room might be a good idea. Maybe have some board games or books available.