President, Food Research & Action Center
Kids today struggle to find a healthy breakfast before going to school. Schools need to re-evaluate how they can support their students’ meals.
The School Breakfast Program allows children to start the school day ready to learn. In the 2018-2019 school year, 14.6 million students participated in the federal School Breakfast Program; 12.4 million of them came from households that struggled to put food on the table.
A weird school year
For many, this school year is just as nontraditional as this past spring. COVID-19 has caused schools across the country to institute remote learning or to stagger student attendance. Many schools operating these unique calendars are providing school breakfasts (and lunches) for students to eat at home. This approach is critical to support the 1 in 3 families with children who are now struggling to put food on the table.
For schools that have re-opened, school breakfast remains one of the best ways to boost student achievement, reduce absenteeism, and improve student nutrition. Yet too many children are missing out on the program’s many benefits, and schools with low school breakfast participation should take another look at how they operate their school breakfast program.
What we can do
To boost the numbers, the Food Research & Action Center promotes two things. First, move breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the classroom. When breakfast is served in the cafeteria before the school day starts, it misses too many students. Eating in the classroom this year is even more important than ever to limit large gatherings of students and support social distancing. Second, offer it at no cost to all students. When these best practices are combined, school breakfast participation skyrockets.
”Breakfast in the Classroom has increased the number of students eating breakfast and it creates a positive atmosphere in the school building,” according to a principal in Kansas City. In these uncertain times, one thing is certain: every child must have access to the nutrition they need to succeed. It is imperative that schools take a fresh look at the available options to ensure their students have access to a healthy breakfast whether at home or in the classroom.