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The Nipomo Elementary team recently earned the national Champions of Breakfast award.

Nipomo Elementary Wins National School Breakfast Award

Author: Public Health Department
Date: 5/22/2019 4:22:17 PM

It's one of six schools in California to win the USDA’s Champions of Breakfast Award for supporting student health and learning with an outstanding breakfast program. The Public Health Department’s Community Wellness Program provides guidance and support to Nipomo Elementary and other schools across SLO County.


Last year, about 40 students per day took part in the school breakfast program at Nipomo Elementary. School leaders saw an opportunity to reach more students and decided to pilot a new breakfast program in six classrooms. Today, the program reaches every classroom in the school.

“We couldn’t believe the success,” said Laurel Goins, director of food services for Lucia Mar Unified School District.

This year, the school served a healthy breakfast to about 240 students each day, more than half the student population. It’s part of the National School Breakfast Program, a federal initiative that provides a nutritious breakfast to schoolchildren across the U.S. at a low cost or no cost to qualifying families. Each school can implement the program differently. The Champions of Breakfast Award recognizes schools with exceptional approaches to ensuring breakfast is available to children who need it. 

“We knew kids would do better in school if they had a good breakfast to start their day right,” said Goins. “In our community, there’s a lot of food insecurity, which means families may not have enough nutritious food or don’t have reliable, consistent access to healthy food. For these families, meals are sometimes missing fruit and vegetables or enough protein or other key nutrients. That food insecurity among students was one of the thoughts behind piloting the breakfast in the classroom program. We knew there was a need.” 

In a recent survey, teachers reported fewer behavioral programs since the new program rolled out, “especially right before lunch when kids start to get wiggly and distracted or head and tummy aches,” said Goins. 

Each morning, cafeteria staff prepare breakfast entrees along with sides like fruit and cheese. They deliver breakfast in bags (hot or cold to maintain proper temperatures) to each classroom, where children have the option to pick up a breakfast as they walk into the room. While students eat breakfast, teachers do attendance, collect homework, and may read to the class or do other activities. Cafeteria staff pick up the bags about 30 minutes after the morning bell rings. 

For students, the impact can last far beyond their morning lessons. 

“Luckily, I’ve never been food insecure, but one of my parents growing up experienced food insecurity,” said Goins. “Now my parents have quite a few health issues from not having proper nutrition. They worked very hard to make sure that I didn’t experience that, but I see them struggle with their health now, later in life. When I look around, all I can think is, ‘If I can’t get a six-year-old good food today, what’s going to happen when she’s my age?’ There are so many studies linking poor nutrition in childhood with lifelong health issues. Our responsibility is to support students when they’re in our care. Whether its teaching them math, science, or proper nutrition, educating the whole child is our goal.”

Kudos to Nipomo Elementary on this national award and their commitment to supporting student health. 

If you’re interested in learning more about breakfast in the classroom or the San Luis Obispo County School Wellness Collaborative, visit www.healslo.com/healthy-schools or contact the Public Health Department’s Community Wellness Team at 805-781-4904.