One of the most important factors in a child’s development and success is nutrition. Unfortunately, many students start their day without the essential fuel needed for them to thrive. The availability of a healthy breakfast each day poses an obstacle for too many families. Fortunately, the School Breakfast Program fills this void for millions of children each school day.
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Breakfast: The Meal of Champions
The positive effects of eating breakfast are hard to ignore. Several studies show that eating school breakfast can dramatically change a child's life. According to No Kid Hungry, five benefits of school breakfast are:
- Higher Test Scores: Hunger makes school harder. Students who eat school breakfast achieve higher scores on standardized tests.
- Calmer Classrooms: Children who do not regularly get enough nutritious food to eat tend to have significantly higher levels of behavioral, emotional and educational problems.
- Fewer Trips to The Nurse: When kids come to school hungry, they visit the school nurse more often due to stomachaches and headaches. Kids who struggle with hunger are also likely to be sick more often, slower to recover from illness, hospitalized more frequently and more susceptible to obesity.
- Stronger Attendance and Graduation Rates: Students who eat school breakfast attend more school days. Chronic absenteeism, defined as missing three weeks or more of school, decreases by 6 percentage points on average when students have access to programs like Breakfast After the Bell. Attendance is important, as students who attend class more regularly are 20% more likely to graduate from high school.
- Maximizes Our Country’s Future: When children are hungry, they struggle to grow up into strong, healthy and productive members of society. This comes at a massive cost to the American economy and its potential.
How to Get School Breakfast for Your Child
The School Breakfast Program plays a critical role in making sure all kids get the food they need to focus and excel in the classroom. Not only does this program ensure that all school breakfasts served follow federally mandated nutrition guidelines, but it also offers this important meal at a low cost (or no cost) to eligible students. Nationally, 14.77 million students eat breakfast at school each day and over 11.8 million of those breakfasts are provided at no charge to the student.
According to the USDA, Children may be determined “categorically eligible” for free meals through participation in certain Federal Assistance Programs. Children can also qualify for free or reduced-price school meals based on household income and family size. Children from families with incomes at or below 130% of the Federal poverty level are eligible for free meals.
Check out these resources for your kids:
- How to apply for free and reduced school meals
- Learn more about the School Breakfast Program and all the child nutrition programs by contacting your state agency
School Breakfast Success
The annual National School Breakfast Week celebrates the importance of nutritious school breakfast in fueling students for success. This special observance during the first week of March celebrates the National School Breakfast Program and the many ways it gives kids a great start every day.
Spend any amount of time with a child nutrition director, school nutrition staff or cafeteria staff and you will notice how much they enjoy feeding children. To ensure children get access to and eat a healthy breakfast, many schools across the country are working to implement new and innovative ways to make school meals more appealing to students – from grab-n-go carts placed in the hallway outside of class to breakfast in the classroom, to adding coffee and smoothie programs. These modifications not only change the perception of school meals but also further evolve them beyond the cafeteria – making school meals more convenient for students to access.
You might ask who we are and why we are so passionate about breakfast. Nutrition NOW is a full-service solution presented by Dairy MAX, your local dairy council representing more than 900 dairy farm families across eight states. We support school nutrition programs in enhancing and elevating school meal operations to ensure all children have access to the nutritious meals they deserve. Dairy MAX’s school wellness experts work directly with school districts by providing customized consulting, marketing and funding that help expand access to nutrient-rich school meals, feeding more students.
Learn more about the evolution of school meals.