Breakfast Pays Big Dividends in Boston Schools

In 2000, the Boston schools partnered with the Massachusetts General Hospital to conduct a study on the impact of the federal School Breakfast Program in 16 of their elementary schools. Researchers found that a simple breakfast of milk, juice and cereal provides a fourth of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of key nutrients needed by growing children. Breakfast reduces hunger in the classroom and improves the overall nutrition of the students. They found that student behavior and grades improved, especially in mathematics. Students were able to spend more time on tasks and were more creative. Attendance improved. Students demonstrated better concentration facilities and improved emotional functioning. Trips to the nurse’s office were drastically reduced.

Breakfast is by far the least expensive program for improving academic achievement, yet less than half the children eligible for the free or reduced price meals participate nationwide. One major obstacle is perception — breakfast programs are viewed as programs for the “poor kids”, a label many students wish to avoid. The other major obstacle is timing. Most schools across the country serve breakfast before the start of school — children who arrive late due to tight morning schedules or on buses that are late, miss breakfast.

Many of the schools in Boston have implemented innovative strategies to overcome the obstacles of perception and timing:

o Nearly 80 elementary schools now offer a universal breakfast — all children eat together for free. The “poor kid” stigma has been eliminated.

o Participating Boston schools make breakfast a normal and expected part of the morning schedule — no different than taking attendance.

o Boston schools serve breakfast in a variety of ways, using the method that works best for each individual school’s culture. Methods range from serving cold or hot food in the classroom from a cooler or thermal pack; grab and go, brown bag breakfasts; sending students to the cafeteria after attendance; or a combination of these approaches.

o Involving the children makes the program more successful. Children rotating being in charge of food delivery to the classroom, after-breakfast trash removal, and returning leftovers to the cafeteria instills pride and responsibility. They become part of the program, not just participants.

The Boston schools have been recognized for their efforts in the School Breakfast Program. Project Bread, the state’s leading anti-hunger organization and Boston schools partner in the School Breakfast Program, awards Boston schools that have achieved an 80 percent or greater student participation — the point at which the breakfast program pays for itself with federal dollars.

In 2002, Project Bread recognized 10 elementary schools with the School Breakfast Excellence Award. Each award is $1,000 that the school’s principal can use for any school-related expense.

The Boston schools have found that when their educators make it a priority and part of the daily schedule, it is more acceptable to the students and has a better chance to succeed. Breakfast is such an inexpensive way for Boston schools to achieve substantial academic results — especially in the children who need it the most.

Making The Time To Write That Novel

Finding the time to write a novel is one of the major issues confronting writers, particularly those who haven’t been published yet. How does one justify to themselves, or to their loved ones, that they need time to write if they have demands on their time, like a job, or a house to be cleaned, a family to be fed, or shopping to do? They make the time.

To make time, one would have to sit down and plan it. If this is not done, then writing will become a haphazard event, dictated by a whim, or a passing urge, rather than a scheduled time. This often results in the book never really being finished. You do want to finish that book, don’t you? Below, I have my own suggestions as to how to make time.

  1. Think about your daily schedule, just like when you do a budget, only instead of money, you’ll be budgeting time.
  2. Then get a nice large desktop calendar, the ones that cost about two dollars. Begin filling in the mandatory slots for the week. Do you have a work schedule, or a doctor’s appointment, a meeting to go to, etc.? Then write these times down.
  3. Next, fill in the times for meals, showers, shopping, socials, etc.
  4. Now look at the times that you are free. Please don’t say there isn’t any time left! There will probably be some time available somewhere. Maybe it’ll be at lunchtime, if you are working, or after dinner, or even during the day if you’re a stay-at home parent (when junior is napping).
  5. If you are a new writer, start slow. Maybe find one hour a day and reserve that for your writing. Go ahead and write the date in the calendar. You just made an appointment with yourself. Now do it for every day of the week. You decide if you want to work the weekend or not.
  6. If you are a more seasoned writer, you will probably need more time. I find that I need a minimum of three hours a day to write. Sometimes I may also use this time doing research for my book.

Once you make that appointment with yourself, that’s the easy part. Next, you have to keep that appointment. There are so many instances when something else interferes with your designated time. I know, I’ve been there. Therefore, you need to have some flexibility. Always have a reserve time slot handy in case you don’t make your date. Although I was pretty regular and rarely strayed from my afternoon schedule, there were times that I just couldn’t stay on track. I learned to be flexible and wrote in the evenings. The important thing to remember is to not stray too far from your schedule, because it defeats the purpose.

Once you’ve scheduled your writing dates, then prepare your work area. Try and have it ready before your designated time. If you have a computer, make sure the printer has enough paper, and there’s a floppy disk available to save your Word files in. If you use a pen and paper instead, make sure you have them handy. Also, make sure you have enough lighting in the room. You wouldn’t want to strain your eyes. Make your writing area as comfortable as you can.

Now try writing for a week. How did it feel? If you’re like me, it felt great. Not only did it feel great writing, but I quickly found out it wasn’t enough time! One does need time to get into the story, to think about the dialogue, to write that chapter. Sometimes you’ll be so absorbed in your writing, that you may surpass the hour you designated, and that’s fine if you go beyond your scheduled time (unless it affects your other activities). There will be other times when you’ll sit there doodling, trying to write something, and it won’t be easy, so you’ll probably finish quicker than the allotted time.

The important thing is to write on a consistent basis. It’s similar to exercise. In order to see results, you have to do it persistently and over a long period of time. A novel can never be written in one sitting! Over the course of your writing, you’ll be learning valuable skills that can only come from experience. Also, you’ll notice that the more you write, the easier it’ll become.

As you follow your daily writing schedule, you will show your loved ones that you are serious about your work, and more importantly, prove to yourself that you can write that novel!

I wrote my first novel in 1-½ years. Being a stay-at-home mother gave me the opportunity to write during my baby’s naps, which averaged about 2-3 hours each afternoon. It is very rewarding to see your novel taking shape. If I could do it, then so can you!