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Feeding a Healthy Breakfast to Every Child During a Pandemic

A nourishing breakfast is essential to young minds across the country. With a healthy and nutritious start to their day, kids are able to focus and learn more effectively. When kids eat breakfast, their concentration, ability to learn, and attention span are greatly improved. In addition, kids and teens who start their day with a nutritious breakfast tend to score betteron academic testing in subjects including math, reading, and science. Kids who regularly eat breakfast tend to consume more dietary fiber, important nutrients such as B vitamins and iron, and less total fat

With many students still learning at home full or part-time, breakfast is more important than ever to ensure that kids are focused and able to pay attention. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service has been working to ensure that despite the disruption to traditional school operations, all kids continue to have access to nutritious and appealing meals, including school breakfast. 

Nationwide waivers by USDA have allowed schools and communities the flexibility to tailor program operations to meet local circumstances and continue to provide children the healthy meals they need. This has taken many different forms, with some school districts operating curbside pickup or drive-through programs, others delivering school meals on a weekly route, and others offering meals in bulk. 

These meals are offered at no cost, which reduces administrative burden for schools. It also provides families facing economic challenges due to the pandemic a stable source of nutritious meals for their children.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) are the science-based nutrition standards recommended for meals and snacks served to children. School breakfasts are based on DGA recommendations, which typically include fruit, whole grains, a meat or other protein item, and milk, while moderating amounts of sugar, saturated fats, and sodium. 

The most recently released DGA recommendations focus on lifetime nutrition, with guidelines to support the health of kids of all ages, including infants up to 24 months old. MyPlate, the visual representation of the DGA, and other FNS resources provide a model for a nutritious and filling breakfast. 

Child nutrition program use official guidelines to plan meals that meet the tastes and needs of their local community — and there are many ways to plan a healthy breakfast. Whole grains, such as oatmeal and whole grain bread, are an excellent part of a complete breakfast. 

Milk and other dairy products play an important role in helping adolescents develop strong bones. Additionally, a fresh piece of fruit like an apple is an easy and nutritious way to get essential nutrients such as potassium, dietary fiber, and vitamin C. 

In a balanced breakfast, these components help kids and teens stay fuller longer, stay alert while learning, and get the vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and protein that they need. 

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