Back to School Means Back to Breakfast!

August 12th, 2014 by Live Well Omaha Kids

Written by Beth Bruck-Upton MA, RD, Health and Wellness Program Manager at the Midwest Dairy Council  of Nebraska

Once again the summer months have flown by and store shelves are stocked with crayons, pencils, notebooks, erasers, and the typical back to school necessities.  It’s a not so subtle reminder that the start of a new school year is right around the corner!  I am not sure about your children, but for mine they have gotten used to staying up a little later than usual and sleeping in a little later as well.  This has added a bit of a wrinkle to our normal morning routine.  Most of all, our breakfast routine!

As I think about breakfast, I look at it from two angles; as a registered dietitian and a working mom.  As a registered dietitian I know the importance of breakfast- it boosts our metabolism, provides our bodies with important nutrients for growth and development, and provides our brains with fuel to be ready to learn or work. On the flip side, as a mother, I know that my children are not always hungry first thing when they wake up in the morning, making breakfast sometimes a battle. So I ask what can I do to ensure that my children, as well as others, have the brain fuel they need to be alert and attentive throughout the school day?

As a parent I can do everything in my power to provide a healthy breakfast at home, but if the kiddos aren’t hungry right away, I am out of luck.  Then I sit and worry throughout the day that their tummies are growling all morning long.  So, instead of just focusing on what I could do at home as a parent, it’s also important to reach out to schools and talk about the importance of breakfast and the possibility of offering breakfast to students in new ways so that I could feel confident my children had the option to eat breakfast at school when they were ready to eat.

Let’s look at the facts: in order for children to be alert, focused and ready to tackle the day’s academic challenges, they need to eat breakfast. Not just on national testing days, but every day of the year. It’s well-documented that breakfast eaters are healthier and more energetic throughout the day. National studies consistently confirm that breakfast provides fuel for school and boosts brain power. Eating breakfast:

  • Improves classroom performance, including better test scores and grades.
  • Increases children’s ability to focus and concentrate on school work.
  • Decreases behavior problems, tardiness and visits to the school nurse.
  • Increases attendance rate.
  • Builds a habit that will more likely carry into teenage and adult years.

So, the trick to ensuring all kids eat breakfast is all about timing and making it easily accessible!    Many traditional school breakfast programs take place prior to the start of the school day in the cafeteria.  When the bus is late or your carpool’s caught in traffic, the opportunity for breakfast might be missed. The solution is a “Grab-n-Go” or “Breakfast in the Classroom” opportunity. Breakfast becomes available to everyone, and it’s served just before or right after the opening bell. This makes it easier for all children to easily participate if they wish.

The approach is simple: Children eat together in the classroom, usually the homeroom, at the start of the school day. They enjoy nutritionally well-balanced foods like breakfast wraps, yogurt, fruit, and milk served directly in their classroom or grabbed from a cart in the hallway. Students then eat breakfast while the teacher takes attendance, collects homework or teaches a short lesson plan.

In about 10 minutes, the meal is over and the school day continues.  And so do the benefits of breakfast in the classroom.

With the help of research and joint support across the state, many schools are trying new methods of serving breakfast to make it more accessible to students. This is exciting, and definitely something we can look toward for inspiration and ideas to create change in our own district:

Norris Middle School in Firth, Nebraska, is offering a second chance breakfast after first period. It’s set up as a Grab-n-Go for students on their way to their next class.

La Vista Junior High School is “Fueling Up” with a new Grab-n-Go Breakfast – encouraging students to “feed their minds” and “fuel their muscles.”

Meadowlark Elementary School in Kearney planned a Breakfast of Champions event with local Nebraska Cornhuskers to bring excitement to the benefits of breakfast.

As a parent and a registered dietitian, it is one less thing I worry about as I drop my kids off to learn, explore, and make new friends!  For information on breakfast programs such as those mentioned above visit the Fuel Up to Play 60 website.  Here you will find a playbook of plays, as well as funding opportunities, to make your breakfast ideas come to life. These Fuel Up to Play 60 Healthy Eating Plays are designed to help make nutrient-rich breakfast options including low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains available outside the cafeteria.

For tasty recipe ideas and more nutrition information, visit  Take the barriers out of breakfast and start enjoying today!



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