It’s not always easy for Pennsylvania children to eat breakfast before heading to school. Some are too busy. Others may come from homes without enough food.
But more and more kids are starting their days with a nutritious breakfast at school. To recognize the positive impact of the state’s school breakfast program and encourage more families and communities to offer similar healthy choices, Gov. Tom Wolf issued a proclamation last month declaring March 6-10 School Breakfast Week.
“Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. They amaze us with their intelligence and intuition and inspire us with their creativity and optimism,” said Wolf in the proclamation, which also recognizes the successes and benefits of the school breakfast program. “I do hereby proclaim March 6-10, 2017 as school breakfast week. I encourage all citizens to recognize the efforts made by schools, their food service directors, and cafeteria staff to ensure the health, safety, and success of our children.”
Jane Clements-Smith, executive director of Feeding Pennsylvania said: “We want to thank Governor Wolf for his proclamation. The school breakfast program is a key part of efforts to ensure that every Pennsylvanian, including the over 500,000 children who are at risk of hunger in this commonwealth, has access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life. We know that school breakfast benefits children and schools by fueling students’ learning, and has a positive impact in the classroom and beyond.”
Josh Keene has seen with his own eyes what a difference a healthy breakfast can make for his students. In the year since Lincoln Middle School in Lancaster County launched a universal after-the-bell breakfast program, attendance has improved, the school has seen a 50 percent reduction in the suspension rate and students are more engaged in academic time from the start of the school day.
“Breakfast after the bell gives our kids the fuel they need to work hard and stay focused and productive all day,” said Dr. Keene, the school’s principal.
Research from the Washington, D.C.-based Food Research and Action Center has shown that participation in school breakfast is associated with increased academic performance such as test scores, concentration, attention, and participation, as well as with decreased behavioral issues. Students who participate in school breakfast are also more likely to have a more nutritious overall dietary intake and better nutrition-related health outcomes.
National School Breakfast Week was launched in 1989 to raise awareness of the availability of the school breakfast program to all children and to promote the links between eating a good breakfast, academic achievement and healthy lifestyles.
Historically, participation in the school breakfast program has been lower than in the school lunch program, but due to the benefits of school breakfast, schools and advocates have worked to increase breakfast participation through innovations such as breakfast in the classroom and the community eligibility provision.
From the 2014-2015 school year to 2015-2016 school year, Pennsylvania was one of the Top 10 states for increased school breakfast participation, with an increase of 9.3 percent in free and reduced-price school breakfasts served. Access to programs such as school breakfast are an essential part of providing a healthy foundation for all of Pennsylvania’s children to reach their potential.
For more information about Feeding Pennsylvania, visitfeedingpa.org.