Why Breakfast Matters

posted Dec 16, 2013, 12:16 PM by BHC Staff
A recent report on school success focused attention on the importance of breakfast for student achievement. The review of over 50 studies found that skipping breakfast hurts a student’s alertness, attention span, memory, and math skills. Hungry students simply don’t learn as well as students who have eaten nutritious meals.

Unfortunately, many children do not receive adequate meals at home. According to Feeding America, almost 16 million children under the age of 18 live in food insecure households across the country. These students rely on free lunch at school, but can spend the first half of their school day hungry. Twenty million fewer students eat breakfast at school as compared to lunch.

Schools have responded by offering breakfast at school, and it works. The Del Norte County Unified School District offers universal free breakfast for all K through 8th grade students. There is no eligibility test and no sign-up required: ALL K-8 students can eat breakfast at their school just by walking into their cafeteria or MPR before school starts.

The benefits are tangible. Not only does a healthy breakfast help individual students learn better, studies show that it reduces chronic absenteeism and raises standardized test scores overall.

The universal free breakfast model used in DNCUSD is just one way to encourage students to take advantage of a school breakfast. Children arriving late to school whether on foot or on a school bus may not have time to eat breakfast before class starts. For this reason and others, many schools are moving breakfast time “after the bell” and serving the meal right in the classroom.

Teachers surveyed at schools offering breakfast after bell reported noticeable results:
  • 76% said their students were more alert during morning classes
  • 57% have seen improved attendance
  • 54% say discipline problems have decreased
Breakfast is a key ingredient in school success. Our local schools are working to make sure all students are ready to learn by serving a free breakfast. According to The Learning Connection report, the other piece of the puzzle is physical activity.

You can read the full report at http://www.actionforhealthykids.org/index.php. Information about breakfast after the bell programs came from a report from Share Our Strength, which you can read at http://www.nokidhungry.org/pdfs/NKH_TeachersReport_2013.pdf.

Del Norte and Adjacent Tribal Lands is one of 14 communities across the state working with The California Endowment through the Building Healthy Communities initiative to spread the message: health happens in schools, homes and neighborhoods. For more information visit www.bhcconnect.org.