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Courtyard Café More Than Doubles Breakfast Participation at Tempe Academy of International Studies

Post Date:01/24/2018 2:02 PM

Students raising hand as man with purple shirt points to them

Tempe Academy of International Studies (TAIS) was recently recognized by the Arizona Milk Producers and the Phoenix Suns at an all-school assembly because of increased breakfast participation by more than 200 percent.

Early in the school year teachers noticed that students were coming to class tired and hungry, even cranky. TAIS teachers Suzanne Holguin and Janell Batt along with Cafeteria Manager Andrea Barrios brainstormed on how to get more students to eat breakfast at school.

“Many of our students weren’t willing to walk all the way to the north end of campus to eat in the cafeteria before school,” explained PE Teacher Janell Batt.

Research links eating a healthy breakfast to helping children perform and behave better in the classroom. “It’s so important for students to eat a good breakfast,” explains Holguin, (who is like a mom to the kids), “It helps them be more engaged in learning, and they are happier and in a better mood.”

Holguin, Batt, and Barrios decided they wanted to figure out how to bring breakfast to the students.

Woman standing at cart containing breakfast items

Barrios took it as a challenge and proposed the idea of an outside feeding cart through which she could wheel nutritious breakfast items to where the students hang out before school. Yes, it takes a little more work, but once they implemented it and saw how successful it became, the reward is so worth it!

They decided to transform the courtyard area between the main classroom buildings into the “Courtyard Café,” where a sign even hangs.

Yellow Courtyard Cafe Sign Hanging near tree

For two weeks, they tried the Courtyard Café mobile breakfast concept and were amazed by the results.

The cafe manager came across the Phoenix Suns Breakfast Contest, where the school in Arizona with the highest increase in breakfast participation wins an all-school assembly by the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Milk Producers. With the help of the District Nutrition Services Department, Barrios filled out the application, gathered the required data, and submitted their evaluation and results to the Arizona Milk Producers.

Before the “Courtyard Café” only about 30 students ate breakfast at TAIS. Now that the program is in place, about 70 students participate in the breakfast program daily. That’s more than a 200 percent increase in participation – a remarkable jump.

For that amazing accomplishment, out of 10 applicants statewide, Tempe Academy won an assembly with a visit from the Phoenix Suns Gorilla, the Suns Solar Squad dancers, and Phoenix Suns Player Josh Jackson!

Jackson, discussed the importance of eating healthy and a nutritious breakfast, getting 60-minutes of exercise a day, and doing your best in school. The Gorilla, in his slapstick silly way, acted out a story read by Phoenix Suns Broadcaster Tom Leander, getting the crowd laughing.

It was an action-packed assembly! Students answered questions to win Phoenix Suns merchandise. A dance performance by the Suns Solar Squad got the crowd energized. Three students were called up to play “Suit up like a Suns Player,” a game where they raced to dress up in Suns gear as fast as they can and the first one to make a basket won a prize pack. (Actually, they all got a prize for participating!) Then three students and two teachers came up and had a dance off with the Suns Solar Squad.

Tempe Academy Sixth-Grader Miguel Ibarra was excited to meet a Suns player. “This is pretty cool,” said Ibarra, who said he likes eating breakfast in the courtyard. “It’s not as far now and I can eat before class and not be hungry.”

Middle school girl smiling as Suns Gorilla and Suns player and announcer look at her

Holguin explained that the Courtyard Café brings excitement into the classroom. “It’s a very communal feeling,” she said. “Teachers are in the courtyard every morning welcoming and encouraging students to eat breakfast while they socialize. It’s a warm, friendly, and energized atmosphere.”

The Tempe Academy staff and Nutrition Services employees are pleased with the increase in learning and in the number of meals served to kids.

“The students even say ‘thank you’ to me because now they go to class with a full stomach, ready to learn,” added Holguin.

Read more about the importance of your teenager eating a good breakfast on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website: Five Reasons Your Teen Needs Breakfast.


Suns Gorilla poses with middle school girl
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