The No Kid Hungry 2015 Hunger in Our Schools report is out. The verdict? Hunger is still all around us. And most often, hunger starts at breakfast. The report notes that more than three quarters (76 percent) of educators said that their students come to school hungry. In fact, every day, educators and administrators across the United States work with students who can’t learn because of hunger.

But what if there’s a solution?

Participation in school breakfast programs does more than reduce student hunger; research shows that improved nutrition, including daily breakfast, and increased physical activity can lead to improved academic performance. Students who eat breakfast tend to…

  • Have improved test scores
  • Exhibit better behavior
  • Visit the clinic/school nurse less often
  • Have better overall attendance
  • Meet more of their nutrient needs
  • Have more favorable weight-related outcomes (e.g. lower BMI, lower waist circumference, lesser likelihood of being chronically obese) in the short and long term compared to those who skip breakfast
  • Start the day ready to learn!

Low-fat and fat-free milk remain a core component of the school meal program. When compared to other drinks, milk is the single largest contributor of beneficial nutrients in kids’ diets. Milk is the number one food source of calcium, potassium and vitamin D in children’s diets.

According to the 2015 Hunger in Our Schools report, a majority of educators (59 percent) say “a lot or most” of their students rely on school meals as their primary source of nutrition. Connecting kids to programs such as school breakfast helps ensure they get the healthy food they need to learn and grow.

But just offering breakfast is not enough. A recent report released by the Food Research and Action center (FRAC) revealed that of those Colorado students currently participating in school lunch, only 50 percent also participate in school breakfast. Of the Montana students who participate in school lunch, only 45 percent participate in school breakfast. That number is right around 40 percent for Wyoming students. Whether low participation is due to the stigma associated with eating breakfast in the cafeteria or for reasons of timing, the problem is usually tied back to the way that breakfast is served in many schools. Alternative breakfast programs (those programs that offer breakfast outside of the cafeteria) provide an answer to this increasing dilemma.

Can you play a role in the solution?

Be a champion for breakfast by advocating for the following alternative breakfast programs if one is not already in place in your school…

  • Breakfast in the Classroom – delivered to each classroom for all students to enjoy during attendance, morning announcements, and warm-up exercises
  • Grab-N-Go Breakfast – served from carts located throughout the school hallways and near entrances for easy access to students as they head to class
  • Breakfast on the Bus – a Grab-N-Go breakfast is offered to students as they load the bus
  • Breakfast after 1st period – often utilized at the secondary level to appeal to students who might not be hungry first thing in the morning.

Help Western Dairy Association Fuel Greatness. Through March 20th, share your photos of students, teachers or parents enjoying school breakfast and tag Western Dairy on Instagram or Twitter (@westerndairy) for a chance to win great prizes!