Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN - Breakfast in the Classroom
I can recall back in my early childhood years frantically rushing to get out of the house, often skipping breakfast, just to find myself out of energy and unable to focus by recess time. As it turns out, I’m not alone. Today, over 18 million students go to school hungry despite the proven benefits and health aspects associated with breakfast intake. The Breakfast in the Classroom program is a relatively new intervention that provides breakfast to students where they need it most–in the hub of learning and socialization, the classroom. In this day and age, when obesity among children is a major concern, how can the implementation of Breakfast in the Classroom help improve overall health and education?
Principals of various school districts, along with teachers of schools that have implemented this program, have reported that students are usually better behaved, are more motivated to attend school, and are more focused. Of course they are! When children rush to school, they often miss out on the most important meal of the day, and often feel like they’re always playing “catch up” with their peers. Simply providing students with as little as 10 minutes to socialize and eat during morning activities may very well improve their performance, contribute to better test scores, increase attendance, and decrease disciplinary problems.
Breakfast in the Classroom often complements academics in a variety of ways. Studies have shown that children who skip breakfast are at an academic disadvantage; they have slower memory recall, make more errors, and are more likely to repeat a grade. Children who eat breakfast often have more energy and are better able to concentrate; this can improve participation and academic scores. This often leads to improvement in standardized test scores which is also associated with increased school funding.
Providing Breakfast in the Classroom also grants a myriad of health effects. Skipping breakfast may contribute to obesity in youth. Children enrolled in breakfast programs have been shown to have significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than children who skipped breakfast. These healthy breakfast meals are nutritious and provide 25 percent of the daily RDA for many nutrients including protein, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D that children may not otherwise attain. In addition to providing essential nutrients at breakfast, Breakfast in the Classroom helps kids get into a healthy routine.
These days, children are increasingly out of shape, and consuming a less than healthful diet is a contributor. If we are to help kids make better choices—starting with choosing to have breakfast, especially a healthful one—they’ll be well on their way towards reaping the many educational and physical benefits of a well-balanced and healthful diet.