From March 5th through March 9th, schools across the country will be celebrating National School Breakfast Week. This weeklong celebration of school breakfast programs highlights the importance of nutritious, healthy breakfasts for students. Read on to learn more about National School Breakfast Week, along with ideas to help your school get involved!
Food for Thought
The assertion that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day,” may seem like a cliché, but there’s definitely a lot of truth to it. Here are some quick facts about school breakfast, courtesy of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC):
- During the 2016-2017 school year, almost 12.2 million students across the country participated in the school breakfast program.
- In Texas, approximately 68% of students who received free or reduced-price lunches at school also ate breakfast at school.
- Studies have linked school breakfast programs to less student hunger, better test scores and improved student health.
School breakfasts (which generally contain both protein and complex carbohydrates) provide essential nutrition to students, helping them to stay attentive and eager during their morning lessons. Adults have trouble concentrating at work when they’re hungry; can we really expect famished children at school to fare any better? If you’re looking for ways to drum up participation in your area, here are some tips for doing so:
- Follow the trends. Data from the FRAC suggests that more children participate in their school’s breakfast program when (1) breakfast is available after the first bell, and (2) schools offer free breakfast to all students regardless of household income. Presumably, these factors make a difference because they negate the need for a child to arrive at school early in order to eat, and they remove the social stigma that children who are receiving free or reduced-price meals sometimes face from peers. By turning school breakfast into something that’s both convenient and widely available, the program becomes normalized—and more widely accepted. So, champion these policies whenever possible; you may just start a movement!
- Raise awareness. Often, children who would qualify for reduced-price or free breakfast at school don’t receive it because their parents or caregivers are simply unaware that the program exists. Sometimes, advertising school breakfast to students and their families (in the form of take-home fliers, social media announcements, or notifications during parent-teacher conferences) is all you need to boost participation.
- Combat Misconceptions. It’s not uncommon for schools (or individual teachers) to have “absolutely no snacking or eating in the classroom” policies. These rules are commonly justified with assertions that eating during a lesson distracts from the learning process, can lead to messy classrooms, and encourages poor dietary habits (that is, frequent snacking instead of eating healthy meals at designated times). While those claims aren’t wrong per se, they’re often short-sighted. For example, a grab-and-go yogurt parfait may pose a small distraction to the student consuming it, but the same child would likely be even more distracted by hunger if not allowed to eat. Also, meals served by schools for breakfast (and lunch) are legally required to meet certain nutritional standards. At the end of the day, breakfast in the classroom arrangements aren’t about giving students permission to snack on pop tarts or candy during math class—they’re about making sure that they get the nourishment that they need in order to thrive.
- Get assistance. Want to launch or promote a school breakfast program in your area but aren’t sure where to start? The United States Department of Agriculture and School Nutrition Association websites have an excellent selection of downloadable resources, including fact sheets, posters and suggestions for breakfast-promoting special events. This year, SNA has designated “I Heart School Breakfast” as the National School Breakfast Week theme, encouraging school communities to participate by sharing their celebrations and joining the conversation on social media using the designated hashtag #NSBW18.
In a perfect world, all children would arrive at school with full bellies and—subsequently—positive attitudes. Unfortunately, far too many children show up to school having not eaten breakfast that morning. School breakfast programs can help remedy this situation, improving attendance, behavior and academic performance. That’s why participating in National School Breakfast Week is so important!
This March, Somma Foods will be echoing sentiments of the School Nutrition Association: “I Heart School Breakfast!” How will you be celebrating?