Breaking Barriers with School Breakfast

It is National School Breakfast Week , a celebration & promotion of schools that provide breakfast to children across the country… so: happy National School Breakfast Week!

If you are a School Breakfast provider, someone who heads to school long before the sun comes up to prepare a healthy & delicious breakfast for hundreds of school kids, THANK YOU! You are feeding the future! For some school children, breakfast at school might be the first well balanced meal that they have eaten since school lunch the day before!

If you are a School Breakfast supporter, a teacher, school administrator, or even community member who has lent your voice and your support to a school breakfast program in your community, THANK YOU! A successful school breakfast program takes commitment and coordination. It takes an acknowledgement of the benefits of school breakfast, and flexibility of scheduling in order to keep the program successful, and the students well fed.

If you are a School Nutrition Director who has tirelessly advocated, administered, planned & promoted the school breakfast program in your district, in your schools, THANK YOU! I fully believe that #ChildrenAreTheInfrastructure and we are #FeedingTheFuture! By providing a healthy school breakfast for children every single day, schools are ensuring that kids will have the best start to their school day, well nourished and ready to learn!

Make your own Teddy Bear Toast in RSU #14 in Maine

I love the School Breakfast program. Nationally, 14.6 million breakfasts are served to school children every single school day. That adds up to 2.4 billion school breakfasts throughout the school year (2017 figures)! Over 80% of those breakfasts are served to students who qualify for free or reduced price meals, providing significant nutrition for children experiencing the greatest need. (figures provided from the Little Big Fact Book – the essential guide to school nutrition 2019 – published by the School Nutrition Association) 

Studies show that student who eat breakfast at school:

  • Have better attendance
  • Are tardy less often
  • Are better able to concentrate
  • Perform better academically through higher test scores and grades – especially when breakfast is eaten close to testing time
  • Make fewer visits to the school nurse
  • Have fewer disciplinary problems

School Breakfast helps solve the hectic morning rush, too! School breakfast provides a nutritious, convenient & economical solution for busy families in the morning.  By relying on school breakfast to feed hungry students before school, families can trust that their school nutrition department will offer a balanced, nutrient-rich meal. 

School Breakfast promotional graphic provided by No Kid Hungry

The national average price for a full price school breakfast is between $1.46 and $1.55, depending on the the student grade-level. Many students, those qualifying for free or reduced price meals, eat at no charge, or for a nominal price of $0.30. On a recent trip to the grocery store, I found that if I purchased all of the components included in a school breakfast, including 8 oz of milk and a full cup of fruit, the comparable breakfast would cost me at least $1.50. Even at full price, a school breakfast makes good economic sense. And for families who qualify for free or reduced price meals, school breakfast is a great solution to stretching the family food budget or those precious SNAP dollars. It is a sure fire way to help students power up & be energized for the school day!

What perplexes me is why so many children are not accessing school breakfast! With over 25 million students qualifying for free and reduced price meals nationally (National Center for Education Statistics – SY 2015) why are schools only serving HALF of those economically disadvantaged students a school breakfast? The statistics are the nearly the same in my district, my state and across the country. Is the problem lack of access? Lack of time? Lack of awareness? Lack of administrative support? Lack of trust? Fear of stigmatization?

Even in the schools in my district where we offer Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) or Second Chance Breakfast or Room Service Breakfast Carts, breakfast participation continues to hover around 50%. By implementing these strategies, participation has definitely improved (80% increase in breakfast participation since 2012), but we still have so much ground to cover, so many more students who need access to a nutritious breakfast to start their day.

whole grain apple french toast bake made with real maple syrup – RSU #14

I believe that School Breakfast is the best way to ensure that all students are adequately nourished & ready for academic success. What are the keys to increasing participation and access in your district? What are success strategies that lead to all children having access to a nutritious breakfast? In my own district, we have used Breakfast in the Classroom, Room Service Breakfast Carts, Second Chance Breakfast & Fun Friday Breakfasts. We don’t qualify for Community Eligibility or Universal Breakfast… though I am sure those strategies significantly impact breakfast participation. How have you broken down the barriers and increased breakfast participation in your district?

Data & information in this blog was obtained from:

  • The Little Big Fact Book – School Nutrition Association.                                           
  • The National Center for Education Statistics – SY 2015                                            
  • Food Research & Action Center – School Breakfast Scorecard – 2017-2018

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