By: Roberto Couto, Dietetic Intern
One in five school-age children skip breakfast every day in the United States. Whether due to lack of access or time, students who skip breakfast are hungry and may not be adequately nourishing their growing bodies, putting them at a learning disadvantage. In fact, research shows that eating a nutritious, balanced breakfast can help reduce the risk of obesity, poor academic and athletic performance, poor concentration in class, and other serious nutrition-related concerns impacting school-aged children.
To ensure students are reminded about breakfasts’ important role in fueling bodies and minds for learning, each year, the first week of March is National School Breakfast Week, a celebration of the School Breakfast Program and its important contribution to ensuring that students are nourished and fueled for the day so that they can be alert and productive in the classroom. The School Breakfast Program helps bridge the hunger gap by providing 14 million children from all socioeconomic backgrounds with a well-balanced, healthy meal at the start of each school day.
Studies continue to support the health and academic benefits of students who consume breakfast, with evidence linking consumption of school breakfast with:
Additionally, as rates of childhood obesity continue to climb, student access to wholesome, nutritious foods is more vital than ever. Breakfast provides a key opportunity for children to consume nutrient-rich foods such as dairy, vegetables, fruits and whole grains, foods typically underconsumed in the American diet. By supporting school breakfast consumption, we are supporting higher intake of healthful foods, better diet quality and improved academic achievement.
According to a 2015 survey of School Nutrition Association members, student participation in the school breakfast program increased during National School Breakfast Week. By driving awareness of federal nutrition programs and resources available to children and families, educators can make a positive impact on the health and performance of their students. Teachers and other school employees can encourage students to eat a healthy breakfast, whether at home or in the school cafeteria.
Coupled with awareness, equipping students with the knowledge to make healthier choices empowers them to take action. At HealthyEating.org, educators can find grade-specific nutrition lesson plans and resources to help teach students and their families the importance of a healthy eating pattern and how to make healthier eating decisions. Visit our curriculum page today and sign up for free classroom nutrition resources and empower your students for better health and academic success.
Kristal Shelden, RDN answers the question, " What’s in the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans and why do they matter?"
School meals have always been a critical access point for the nutritious foods that children need to grow and learn.