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First Class Breakfast

School Breakfast Program

The School Breakfast Program (SBP) allows all school children in Maryland the opportunity to eat a healthy breakfast every school day, which helps to promote learning readiness and healthy eating behaviors. The School Breakfast Program is a federally funded meal program that operates in public and private nonprofit schools and residential child care institutions.

Like the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free meals to children.  Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced price meals. All other children are offered a low-cost meal.

Benefits of a Healthy Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – educationally and nutritionally. A key component of boosting children’s well-being and improving schools is to ensure that each child can start the day right with a healthy breakfast at school.

  • BREAKFAST HELPS CHILDREN LEARN : Studies show that breakfast improves learning and attendance, and reduces behavior problems and tardiness. Children who eat breakfast at school – closer to test-taking time – perform better on standardized tests than those who skip breakfast or eat breakfast at home.

  • BREAKFAST PROMOTES GOOD HEALTH: Eating breakfast at school results in fewer visits to the school nurse, improves children’s diets, reduces absenteeism, and helps build healthy eating habits. Additionally, children who start the day with a good breakfast are less likely to be obese.

The benefits of breakfast are substantial, but too many children in Maryland miss out on a healthy start to their day.  With less than half of eligible children participating in the breakfast program and more children becoming eligible as families are harshly affected during this weak economy, it is imperative to reduce barriers to participation and prioritize the expansion of breakfast participation in our schools.

Barriers

Barriers to participation in the School Breakfast Program exist. Students can be prevented from eating school breakfast if they struggle with:

• Tight morning schedules.
• Incompatible transportation.
• Not experiencing hunger first thing in the morning.
• Preference or peer pressure to socialize or play instead of eat breakfast.
• Stigma when obtaining school meals.

These factors were evident in a recent survey of over 400 Maryland students which suggested that making breakfast easier to get would make them more likely to eat it, especially if breakfast were part of the school day.

When these barriers are addressed, students can reap the academic and nutritional benefits of breakfast every day, as well as look forward to better academic and health outcomes in the long run.

Alternative Delivery Models

Research has shown that offering alternative means for children to access school breakfast dramatically increases participation in the program, which in turn helps more children start their day with a healthy, nutritious breakfast!

Along with the traditional model of cafeteria breakfast, the following models are available for breakfast delivery:

  • BREAKFAST IN THE CLASSROOM: Breakfast is delivered to the classroom and consumed in the classroom setting before school starts.

  • GRAB AND GO BREAKFAST: Breakfasts packaged in bags that include all components of the meal are available at sites throughout the school for pick up on the go, before school or during first period.

  • BREAKFAST AFTER 1ST PERIOD: Breakfast is served/consumed after the first period between classes (and finished during second period) or during their break.

Schools should evaluate their current delivery model and consider these opportunities to begin a program or increase participation. Many schools have been successful adopting one of these models, or even combining them to meet their own needs.  Structuring breakfast as part of the school day, however, is the most effective way to increase participation. Whether breakfast is served in the classroom or the hallways, the flexibility to eat during the morning in school ensures optimal participation.

Nationally, the school districts that make breakfast a part of the school day (such as serving breakfast in the classroom) are those that have the highest participation rates. The top performing districts in the country, serving more than 90 low-income students breakfast for every 100 that receive lunch, feature universal breakfast and alternative service models that make breakfast an essential part of the school day.

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