Rise and Shine, and Eat Your 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.”
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.”