As we celebrate National School Breakfast Week, March 2 to 6, 2015, there’s some great news about morning meals at school. Most importantly, participation in USDA’s School Breakfast Program is growing across the country. There is also new scientific research confirming that breakfast supplies missing nutrients, especially for growing teens. And, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) just issued a reassuring statement about the small amounts of sugar, fat and sodium in foods at school.
However, the Food Research and Action Center’s (FRAC) School Breakfast Scorecard indicates that many eligible students are still not getting a morning meal at school. And the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee tells us that too many young people still skip breakfast. Unfortunately, it’s also clear that not enough Americans are utilizing the wonderful resources available to boost breakfast participation at school, at home and on the road!
Every year the FRAC School Breakfast Scorecard lists participation rates for every U.S. state and the District of Columbia. The 2015 report (on data from school year 2013-14) shows steady increases since 2003, with a total of 320,000 more low-income students eating a school breakfast each day than during the previous year. Arkansas was one of the top performing states in terms of school breakfast increases in this year’s report.
Sadly, significant school breakfast gaps still exist for low-income children in many states, including Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota in the Midwest. This is a serious problem because breakfast improves students’ ability to focus and pay attention in class. Hungry children cannot listen to their teachers and learn – because they are listening to their stomachs. The new video Breakfast in the Classroom Works! and other resources from Midwest Dairy offer simple solutions to helping more students enjoy the benefits of eating in the morning.
The recently released Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reinforces the importance of breakfast for young people. The report notes that “[B]reakfast eating is associated with more favorable nutrient intakes compared to nutrient intakes from other meals or snacks. Adolescents and young adults are the least likely to eat breakfast, and targeted promotion efforts are needed to reach these groups. For children and adolescents, the school breakfast program is an important venue for promoting breakfast consumption, and efforts are needed to increase student participation rates.”
The AAP Policy Statement on Snacks, Sweetened Beverages, Added Sugars, and Schools also acknowledges the “substantial gains made by school nutrition programs” and encourages local pediatricians to support these programs. The statement recommends a ‘whole diet’ approach to feeding children and notes that “small amounts of sugar, salt, fats and oils with highly nutritious foods” can enhance enjoyment and consumption of important nutrients. This includes common nutrient-rich school breakfast options like low-sugar cereals, low-fat yogurt and fat-free flavored milk.
As a mom and a child nutrition expert, my mantra is simple. Breakfast. Every Child. Every Day. Research clearly shows that breakfast helps children be well nourished and ready to learn. I am grateful that Midwest Dairy is working closely with communities to expand school breakfast programs so that every student enjoys these benefits.
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