Breakfast might not just be the most important meal of a child's day - it might be one of most important meals of their life. A new study released Wednesday by non-profit group Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign shows the positive effect that school breakfast can have on a child's performance in class and on standardized tests, and what this can mean for their future.
Eleven million low-income students eat a school-provided breakfast. Share Our Strength partnered with professional services firm Deloitte to analyze third party studies and publicly available data to assess the impact of existing school breakfast plans on students' academic performance. They found some rather eye-opening statistics.
Students who ate school breakfast attended an average of 1.5 more days of school than their meal-skipping peers, and their math scores averaged 17.5% higher. The report, which was funded in part by Kellogg's, went on to share that these students with increased attendance and scores were 20% more likely to continue on and graduate high school. High school graduates earn on average $10,090 more annually that their non-diploma-holding counterparts and are significantly less likely to experience hunger in adulthood.
In Maryland alone, research indicated that increasing school breakfast participation among elementary and middle school students to 70% of the students currently receiving school lunch could lead Maryland to see up to an estimated 56,000 additional students achieving math proficiency, 14,000 more high school graduates over time and 84,890 fewer absences.
According to the USDA, participating school districts and independent schools receive cash subsidies ($1.55 for free breakfasts, $1.25 for reduced-price and $.27 for paid) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for each meal they serve. The breakfasts must meet federal requirements and be provided for free or reduced price to eligible children.
The hitch: only half of the 21 million children eligible for reduced-price or free lunch are taking advantage of the earlier meal. A previous report by Breakfast in the Classroom found that most schools participating in the federal School Breakfast Program serve breakfast in the cafeteria before the beginning of the official school day, making in necessary for children to arrive at school significantly before their classmates. Other students simply didn't know about the program, couldn't afford the time or found it difficult to work around their bus schedule.
A report released by the Food Research and Action Center and Florida Impact found the states that were most effective in reaching low‐income children (District of Columbia, New Mexico, South Carolina, and West Virginia) all contain schools that have implemented alternative solutions to increase breakfast consumption. Breakfast may be brought to the classroom, kids can grab food from carts around the school and eat it on the go, or they might have a second chance to eat after a first class of the day.
Officials for Share Our Strength are rallying their supporters to use an interactive map to identify schools in their area that are currently not participating in school breakfast programs in order to add additional data to their study. They hope to obtain data by March 31 on 10,000 schools currently not participating in the breakfast programs.
Read the full study
New program strives to get more lower-income students to eat breakfast
Tom Colicchio talks childhood hunger
Hungry at the holidays
More on the politics of school lunch
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