Up to 50% of a child’s daily calorie intake comes from meals consumed at school. For the majority, their first meal doesn’t come until lunch. School breakfast has seen a rise in participation since the pandemic, and in states that have passed Universal Meals permanently, we will continue to see participation increase. Children who start their day fueled with a nutritious meal are more likely to succeed in the classroom and sustain better moods.
Current day school breakfast programs are rooted in racial justice work. In 1969, before the government established a school breakfast program, the Black Panther Party started a free school breakfast program in cities across the country. The Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast for School Children Program fed tens of thousands of hungry kids from 1969 through the early 1970s. Their Free Breakfast for School Children Program had become such a success that it served as the foundation for the National School Breakfast Program formally established by the government in 1975.
Today, school is where more than 14.7 million children receive breakfast every day, and we know that a nourished child is fueled and ready to learn. This study’s findings draw a stronger connection between good nutrition and success in the classroom. Unfortunately, common breakfast items can be loaded with added sugar and not as beneficial for kids. Eat REAL schools are committed to making breakfast as nutritious as possible by removing items high in sugar and finding nutritious and delicious alternatives such as whole grain breakfast burritos and plain yogurt with fresh fruit.
As we close out National School Breakfast Week, we want to recognize the 11 districts in our Eat REAL Certification program. They are leaders in school food, dedicated to raising the bar for child nutrition. By sourcing local ingredients, building strong farm to school programming, and increasing scratch cooking, meals are more delicious and nutritious than ever before. Our schools are bringing in recipes that represent all students, ensuring they start their day with the nutrition they need to flourish.
Last week, congress announced it would be ending pandemic waivers at the end of the 2022 school year. These waivers allowed all schools in the U.S. to serve breakfast and lunch to any child under 18 free of cost, resulting in an additional 10 million students to eat free meals at school each day. These meals were not only a lifeline for many students but with increased participation, increased much needed funding for district programs.