Before food for thought—there should be food.
The National Education Association, one of NYSUT’s national affiliates, is spreading more than just jam on toast. It’s also spreading the news about the benefits of breakfast in the classroom, along with providing resources on how to sign up for programs and explaining how they make a difference.
Starting the day with food calms hunger pains and improves focus. It can improve mental health. Certainly, it can quiet rumbling bellies.
The national School Breakfast Program is getting attention this week during National School Breakfast Week. The commemoration began in 1989.
NEA – the national union that brings you Read Across America every year —has a Healthy Futures website, which provides resources about green eggs and ham — or other breakfast ideas — for educators. There is a breakfast in the classroom toolkit, a guide to improve breakfast programs and this wake-up call: “Today in America, 1 out of every 5 children does not know where there next meal is coming from.”
Further details from the U.S. Department of Agriculture explain that “nearly 15 percent of Americans were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2013. That’s 45 million people, 16 million of which are children.”
Help comes in the form of the federal School Breakfast Program, available to students in public schools and other settings, where cafeteria workers (school-related professionals) prepare and serve meals.
Participating districts receive cash subsidies from the USDA for each meal served that meets Federal requirements. The meals must be offered free, or reduced price, to children who are eligible.
In some districts, poverty is so widespread that universal breakfast programs are offered. This way, there is no distinction among students who have money for breakfast and those who do not; among children who do not have a box of cereal or a carton of eggs at home, and those that do.
According to the Food Research and Action Center, students who eat breakfast at school:
- perform better on standardized tests;
- have improved concentration, alertness, comprehension, memory and learning; and
- shown increased cognitive function and attention.
To learn about how to apply for school breakfast programs, click here.
The goal of this push is to increase the number of students who eat breakfast through the federally funded School Breakfast Program.
To advocate for reauthorization of child nutrition programs, go to NEA’s legislative action site to urge U.S. congressional representatives “to maintain the healthy guidelines for school meals established in the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act.”
Providing meals to students in the summer, and working with Farm to Schools programs, are among other nutrition programs being advocated for by many educators across the country.