Breakfast After the Bell: Redesigned Titan Express Cafe Offers Students More Options as We Address Nutritional Needs

Like most teenagers, T.C. Williams High School seniors Andesha Zafar and Athena Salomons get hungry — often.

And like most teenagers with busy schedules, they sometimes leave the house at the last moment without breakfast.

Now, thanks to new morning opening hours at the redesigned Titan Express Cafe, they have somewhere appealing to go to grab a quick bite during advisory.

On Tuesday, the two friends were joined by classmates at the launch of the cafe’s Second Chance Breakfast service which runs after the first bell from 9:28 to 9:55 a.m.

Over the summer break, the space underwent a major redesign from the bland to the brilliant, turning it from a drab space into a red, white and blue themed snack bar with a more adult feel.

“It’s a huge difference, it looks so much better. Everything is much more organized. And it is much, much quicker to get served here,” said Andesha.

“And the options are a lot healthier than they used to be,” added Athena as she grabbed a bottle of water from a refrigerated shelf packed with fruit, milk and yogurt.

Along with individual à la carte items, rows and rows of breakfast bento boxes containing a nutritionally balanced complete meal line up alongside La Croix Sparkling Water, ice and Gatorade.

The new venture was made possible in part with more than $4,000 in grant funding from No Kid Hungry (NKH), the nationwide non profit which is working to end child hunger in the U.S. 

According to their data, on average, students who eat school breakfast have been shown to achieve 17.5% higher scores on standardized math tests and attend 1.5 more days of school per year.

Nelly Evans, the Virginia Regional Associate of NKH, was at Tuesday’s event.

The cafe is an innovative way to remind children to eat. Often at school they are going to choose socializing over getting food. But when an environment is aesthetically pleasing, it makes a difference. Our main driver at No Kid Hungry is the importance of breakfast. There are multiple benefits seen in the school environment when a child takes breakfast. Attention is improved which leads to higher reading and math standards. There are less visits to the school nurse because hunger pangs are often mistaken for illness,” she said.

Did you know? ACPS served 862,592 breakfasts in the 2018-19 school year.

Lucy Ruetiman from ACPS School Nutrition Services was one of the driving forces behind the new initiative.

“Sometimes, you don’t want to eat immediately after getting up in the morning. We see this as giving a second chance breakfast after first period. It gives us another venue to serve our à la carte menu items and it provides students with a quick grab and go meal where they don’t have to wait in long lines. We wanted to create a more adult space, that looks like a store, rather than a classroom. Before the redesign, if you didn’t know it was there, you would have walked straight by it.” 

The cafe is also open during lunch, and starting in October the after-school dinner program will run from 3:15 to 3:45 p.m.

In addition to the cafe revamp, ACPS Nutrition Services is working on a number of other new initiatives this academic year, including:

  • Eliminating artificial food coloring, flavors and high fructose corn syrup from our regular menus
  • Continuing kitchen modernization in a number of our schools
  • Increasing the availability of plant-based and vegetarian entrees on our regular menus
ACPS, Alexandria City High School