The Breakfast of Champion Students

UPDATE: ‘School Breakfast: Food for Thought,’ can be found here.

What did you have for breakfast this morning? I had oatmeal, cooked with almond milk, and topped with walnuts and dried blueberries.

Ask that question to a student though, and you might get some surprising answers. At Earlimart Elementary School, some students said they ate spaghetti, pizza, tamales, and Cocoa Puffs early that morning.

Others did not eat anything until 9:30 or 10 a.m. during the school’s Second Chance Breakfast, which the school offers to kids who did not make it to the school’s breakfast before the bell rang that morning.

Across the San Joaquín Valley, more school districts are beginning to implement non-traditional breakfast programs, like the Second Chance Breakfast in Earlimart. The programs are intended to improve a startling statistic: In California public schools, 2.3 million, or 70 percent of students eligible to receive free and reduced-price meals, are missing out on the benefits of a nutritious school breakfast.

(What is the school breakfast participation rate in your school district? Check out this table , from California Food Policy Advocates’ BreakfastFirst Campaign, to find out.)

By skipping the first meal of the day, students, families, and teachers lose out on so many benefits.

Studies show that breakfast increases kids’ health and improve their academic achievement. Also, teachers report fewer behavioral problems and higher attendance rates, school nurses see fewer students complaining of stomach aches, and school districts benefit from federal meal reimbursements.

“For me, from the beginning, it has almost seemed like a no-brainer,” said Ellen Braff-Guajardo, senior nutrition policy advocate with California Food Policy Advocates’ BreakfastFirst campaign. “It’s an opportunity for student to receive breakfast at school, and to help families in these economic times be able to meet other bills, like housing, and other necessities of life.”

Approaches like the second chance breakfast in Earlimart, and the classroom breakfast in Modesto and Sanger, are making a difference in the number of kids eating school breakfast. Read more about these programs and their benefits in the next edition of Vida en el Valle.

Want to read more from this blog about school meals, and their impact on children’s health?

Top image by Daniel Cásarez. Bottom image from pugetsoundblogs.com.