Waking up to school breakfast: A community perspective

March 9th, 2016 by Live Well Omaha Kids

Written by Ashley Carroll, NE State Coordinator, Action for Healthy Kids

Emerson BIC4As the Nebraska State Coordinator of Action for Healthy Kids, I have the privilege of travelling around the state and visiting schools of all shapes and sizes.  What I always enjoy, no matter where I go, is watching as waves of students arrive to school in various stages of consciousness first thing in the morning.  I love to see the smiles that involuntarily grace their faces as they are greeted with a familiar, “Good morning.  How are you today?” from their food service professional, teacher or principal while grabbing their breakfast.  The greatest thing about starting the school day with breakfast is that exchange right there. Sometimes you can almost see the baggage that student arrived to school with fall away when someone takes the time to say hello and hands them something warm to eat.

GA_LibertyElementary_Breakfast_12.10.14School breakfast is an opportunity to feed a hungry child and to help prepare them for a day of learning. It’s an opportunity to set a positive tone for the rest of the day and to build a sense of community. It’s a second chance for the child who missed breakfast to grab something healthy rather than skip breakfast or spend unnecessary funds at the corner store. Every child – from wee little learners to high schoolers – must have the opportunity to refuel in the morning or they cannot be expected to do their best in the classroom.  I cannot imagine myself getting through a morning of conference calls and meetings on an empty stomach.

In 2015, over 14 million children participated every day across the country.  Here in Nebraska, about 70,000 kids participate. If you haven’t had school breakfast since you were in school yourself, expect some positive changes.  The National School Breakfast Program’s nutrition guidelines were revised in 2010 to reflect the most current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  This means that all school breakfasts served as part of the National School Breakfast Program include a whole grain, a fruit and low-fat or fat-free milk daily.  A meat or meat alternative may also be served. School breakfast provides 1/4 of the recommended daily allowance (based on age subgroups) of protein, calcium, iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and calories.

Breakfast also might take place in settings you wouldn’t expect.  Students all over Nebraska and across the country are increasingly receiving breakfast in grab-and-go bags on their way into school, having breakfast delivered to their classrooms to enjoy during their first period, or even through special refrigerated vending machines.  These approaches, known as alternative breakfast models, ensure more students have access to a healthy school breakfast by addressing common barriers such as bus schedules, parent work schedules, before-school athletics, tardiness and social stigma.

The bottom line is: breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.  If your child cannot or will not eat breakfast at home first thing in the morning, rest assured that they can receive a nutritious breakfast at school.  Studies show that children who eat school breakfast:

  • Perform better on standardized tests
  • Are less likely to be overweight
  • Have improved nutrition
  • Eat more fruit
  • Drink more milk
  • Consume a wider variety of foods

And isn’t it nice to have one less thing to worry about in the morning?

Check out school wellness resources from Action for Healthy Kids such as Game On and the School Health Index assessment. Apply for school breakfast and Game On grants at: www.actionforhealthykids.org/Grants. Learn more about the impact school breakfast programs have on schools and students nationwide.

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Acknowledgements: The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and The Food Research Action Center



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