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Breakfast in Schools: Healthy and Nutritious

Contributors: Heidi McIndoo, MS and Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN

Published: January 31, 2023

Reviewed: February 22, 2023

Breakfast In Schools Healthy and Nutritious
M-Production/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

Kids benefit from starting the day with a healthy breakfast. Research suggests that kids who eat breakfast regularly, tend to be more alert in school, and, therefore, are able to learn better.

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 their parent or caregiver 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 100,000 schools and institutions currently offer school breakfast. In 2022, approximately 15.3 million children participated in school breakfast on any given day. A large majority receive their meals free or at a reduced price.

According to the USDA, school breakfasts must meet the applicable recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and are designed to ensure that students enter the classroom well-nourished and ready to learn. While types of food vary because specific nutritional guidelines must be met, children can expect a milk; 100% 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 meat or meat alternative. 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 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 classroom. If you qualify for reduced or free breakfast, it's a good idea to take advantage of the program.

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