breakfast, cereal

Rise and Shine, and Eat Your Breakfast

December 04, 2009 05:00 PM
by Colleen Brondou
Although research shows the importance of eating a healthy breakfast, many students continue to skip it. Some schools are changing that by moving breakfast out of the cafeteria.

Making Breakfast More Accessible

Even though Central Unified School District in Fresno, Calif., started offering free breakfast to all students last year, regardless of income, many students failed to stop by the cafeteria to eat. According to Tracy Correa, writing for The Fresno Bee, students didn’t want “to lose precious pre-class time with friends” or “wake up earlier to leave time for breakfast.”

The district kept looking for ways to boost participation in the breakfast program and came up with a novel approach: If students won’t come to breakfast, bring breakfast to them. The district purchased mobile food carts and parked them in heavily trafficked locations around the school, such as bus drop-off sites and entrances.

Now, students can quickly grab a carton of milk and a breakfast sandwich, and still spend time with friends. Participation has increased to 34 percent this school year from 16 percent last year. “Not having the kids walk across campus [to the cafeteria] made a huge difference,” Debi Pollock, food services director for Central Unified, told Correa.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education had a similar challenge: Although one in three students are eligible to receive free or reduced-cost breakfast in Pennsylvania, only 29 percent of those students actually participate in the program. In order to boost participation, the department allows breakfast to be served during homeroom periods and classroom instruction time.

“At Ben Franklin Elementary, serving breakfast in the classroom seems to have a calming effect on the students,” David Lloyd, food service director at Harrisburg City School District, said in an article on Medical News Today. “Teachers are finding the students to be more attentive, better behaved and ready to learn after they have had breakfast.”

Background: Why breakfast is so important

A study performed last year by the Harvard School of Public Health looked at more than 100 published research articles and found that providing breakfast to students “significantly improves their cognitive or mental abilities, enabling them to be more alert, pay better attention, and to do better in terms of reading, math and other standardized test scores.” The study also uncovered important health and behavior benefits: Kids that eat breakfast get sick less often, and do better “in terms of cooperation, discipline and inter-personal behaviors.”

Opinion & Analysis: The time factor

Even though most people agree that eating breakfast is a great way to start the day, many still miss out on this meal. A survey conducted by Impulse Research Service found that 85 percent of Americans believe that eating breakfast is important but more than 60 percent say they don’t have the time to do so. Lorraine Heller, writing for, points out that finding a balance between convenience and nutritional value is a challenge: Although there are many “grab-and-go” breakfast options available for those in a hurry, many of these are high in sugar, fat and refined grains. Is eating a cereal bar loaded with sugar better than no breakfast at all?

In an article for Slate, Amanda Schaffer argues that it isn’t a question of your breakfast’s nutritional value, or even a question of breakfast at all. In her mind, it’s all about sleep. She explains that the “breakfast-skippers” may have a tough time in school, not because they didn’t eat breakfast, but because “[t]heir circadian clocks are telling them that it’s still nighttime.” Differences in sleep patterns and circadian rhythms “can have a big impact on cognitive performance,” she writes.

“Taken together,” Schaffer contends, “the scientific literature on breakfast and sleep suggests that making sure kids get enough shut-eye will probably do more for them than dragging them out of bed to eat their Wheaties.”

Related Topic: Getting kids to eat breakfast

Scholastic has some quick tips on how to make breakfast a part of your child’s day, every day of the week. You’ll also find some great suggestions on food choices that appeal to kids in a hurry.

Reference: Nutrition

Learn how important nutritional food is for good physical and mental health and well-being with findingDulcinea’s Nutrition Web Guide.

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