Egg Nutrition Center Blog

What’s All the Buzz About School Breakfast?

dhToday’s post comes from Dayle Hayes, MS, RD. Dayle is an award-winning author, educator and registered dietitian. She is known in cyberspace for School Meals That Rock on Facebook, Twitter and her blog of the same name. Her creativity and common-sense have made her a sought-after speaker across the USA. As a parent and member of the School Nutrition Association, Dayle is dedicated make school environments healthy for students and staff. She collected school success stories for Making It Happen, a joint CDC-USDA project, and co-authored the Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrition Guidance for Healthy Children Ages 2 to 11 Years.

 In recognition of her professional and volunteer leadership, Dayle has received numerous honors, including Montana Dietitian of the Year, and an ADA Excellence in Consultation and Business Practice Award. In January 2012, she received the Silver FAME Award as a Friend of Child Nutrition from the School Nutrition Association. FoodService Director magazine named her as one of their “20 Most Influential for 2012.”

This is National School Breakfast Week (NSBW, March 4 through 8, 2013) – and it promises to be one of the best NSBW celebrations ever! For years the only folks paying much attention were moms (we’ve been nagging about the importance of breakfast for centuries) and school nutrition professionals who are all-too-aware of hungry children. Most administrators and teachers only emphasized breakfast during standardized testing. Now, everyone is talking about breakfast – realizing that students need nutrition to learn every school day, not just on test days.

So, who’s talking about school breakfast? On February 27, 2013, the No Kid Hungry® campaign of Share Our Strength released a high profile report, Ending Childhood Hunger: A social impact analysis. This white paper focuses the potentially life-changing benefits of breakfast – beyond nutrition – at school, including:

  • Children who eat school breakfast on average attend 1.5 more days of school per year and score 17.5% higher on standardized math tests
  • Students who attend school more often and have higher math scores are 20% more likely to graduate from high school – and less likely to experience hunger as adults
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Breakfast burritos from a school in MN

The tipping tip for school breakfast may come from the American Association of School Administrators (AAAS), which has devoted the entire winter issue of School Governance & Leadership to Improving Attendance, Health and Behavior: Moving Breakfast Out of the Cafeteria. Declaring that school breakfast is “An Issue of Leadership,” AAAS argues persuasively for alternative (outside the cafeteria) breakfast service because it is less stigmatizing to low-income children and increases participation. While the AAAS emphasizes the academic benefits of school breakfast, they also outline research showing that:

  • Children who eat breakfast are more likely to have healthier weights and that teen girls who eat school breakfast are less likely to be overweight
  • Children with access to school breakfast eat more fruit, drink more milk, consume a wider variety of foods, and have better intakes of calcium, fiber, folate, and protein

The best NSBW news is that many schools are already meeting or exceeding the new breakfast meal pattern that goes into effect in July 2013. As required, they are offering fresh and frozen fruit, whole grain cereals and breads, and low-fat/fat-free milk. And, recognizing the importance of protein, many schools also offer extra lean meats, yogurt and eggs to their breakfast meals. To see outstanding examples of school breakfasts, visit these Facebook pages: School Meals That Rock and Tray Talk (from the School Nutrition Association).

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Balanced breakfast with a green eggs and ham theme

Author: Anna Shlachter MS, RDN, LDN