Kids benefit from starting the day with a healthy breakfast. Research shows that kids who eat breakfast regularly tend to be more alert in school, and are therefore able to learn better. They are also less likely to be overweight than kids who skip breakfast regularly. However, even with hard evidence showing the substantial advantages to eating a morning meal, between 42% and 59% of American children do not eat breakfast every day, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics report The State of Family Nutrition and Physical Activity: Are We Making Progress?.
Why Skip Out on Breakfast?
All households have their reasons. In some cases, getting kids up and out the door on time takes all the energy Mom or Dad can muster at that hour of the day. Perhaps others may have financial issues that make obtaining nutritious food a challenge. And there may be kids who, like many adults, just find it difficult to eat first thing in the morning.
The Good News
Many schools throughout the country participate in the USDA’s School Breakfast Program, a program modeled after the National School Lunch Program to provide nutritional breakfasts to students at participating schools. Participation climbs yearly - currently more than 87,000 schools and institutions offer school breakfast .Over 11.1 million children ate school breakfast everyday in Fiscal Year 2009. Of those, 9.1 million received their meals free or at a reduced‐price.
According to Melinda Johnson, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy, “Participating schools must provide 1/4 of a child's daily need for protein, calcium, iron, vitamins A and C, and calories.” She also adds that while the types of food vary somewhat, because these specific nutritional guidelines must be met, children can expect a dairy choice such as milk or yogurt; juice or fruit; a grain-or whole grain-based product such as cereal, toast, or waffles; and sometimes hot options like eggs.
Schools that provide breakfast in the classroom to all students have shown decreases in tardiness and suspensions as well as improved student behavior and attentiveness.
The Better News
There is a fee for the breakfast program, but families in need can apply to have their kids receive their meals at a reduced rate or for free, if they qualify. Sarah Krieger, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy, says “If you qualify for reduced or free breakfast, take advantage of the program. A child may improve their grades, attitude and energy by eating breakfast every day.”