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, therefore, are able to learn better. They also are less likely to be overweight than kids who skip breakfast regularly. However, even with hard evidence showing the substantial advantages of eating a morning meal, between 42 and 59 percent 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 nutritious breakfasts to students at participating schools. Participation climbs yearly — about 90,000 schools and institutions currently offer school breakfast. Approximately 13.7 million children participated in school breakfast on any given day within the 2014-2015 school year. Of those, 11.7 million received their meals free or at a reduced price.
Participating schools must provide one-fourth of a child's daily need for protein, calcium, iron, vitamins A and C, and calories. While types of food vary somewhat, because these specific nutritional guidelines must be met, children can expect a dairy choice such as low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt; 100-percent juice or fruit and/or vegetable; a grain- or whole grain-based product such as cereal, toast or waffles; and sometimes hot options such as eggs or some other meat/meat alternate.
The Better News
There are criteria in order to qualify for free or reduced meal programs, but some schools have increased participation by offering free breakfast to all kids in the classrooms. If you qualify for reduced or free breakfast, it's a good idea to take advantage of the program. Children may improve their grades, attitude and energy by eating breakfast every day.