Effects of School Breakfast on Childhood Food Insecurity

March 11th, 2016 by Live Well Omaha Kids

Written by Tiffany Jones, Partnership Coordinator, Hunger Free Heartland

Getting ready to serve second chance breakfast in the hallway to high school studentsSchool breakfast provides a vast amount of benefits for both students and schools – ranging from better dietary intake and improved academic performance to decreasing obesity and tardiness. But the impact of breakfast doesn’t stop there – it stretches beyond into our community, as well.

Currently, 1 in 5 children in Nebraska are food insecure. In 2014, 49% of SNAP participants were children. Yet after knowing all of this, only about 38.9% of children that are eligible for free and reduced meals actually participate in school breakfast. The exact reasons behind this may be unknown, but we can pinpoint some guesses. Children may miss out, or choose to skip out, on breakfast because of the “stigma” behind traditional models offered. Consider having to sit in a cafeteria to eat while all of your friends hang out on the playground or head to class early without you. How would that feel? Would it be worth it to sit alone and miss out on other things, as a child? On top of a stigma, some students have no control over their guardians’ actions or modes of transportation. For example, some students must commute via bus for over an hour to school, while other students have guardians that are juggling multiple things and can barely get them to school on time. In the end, both of these examples leave little-to-no time for students to partake in a traditional-style cafeteria breakfast.

However, there is hope for our children and community.

When schools adopt alternative breakfast models – grab-and-go, breakfast in the classroom, or second chance breakfast – breakfast participation rises, along with students receiving the nutrition they deserve and need to make it through the day. And when at-risk students are able to eat at school, their parents, who may or may not be using SNAP benefits, no longer have to worry about how or whether they will be able to afford their child’s first meal of the day.

With alternative breakfast models, stigma and time-constraints are removed and replaced with full tummies and eager-to-learn children. In addition, a community is created that becomes one step closer to a future free of childhood food insecurity.

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