Focusing on School Breakfast
Since the Arkansas No Kid Hungry campaign began in 2010, increasing school breakfast participation has been a key focus. The benefits to students of getting a nutritious breakfast are many and well documented*. Hungry children can’t learn, and so they begin falling behind their peers, often with life-long consequences. The No Kid Hungry campaign strategy focuses on promoting Breakfast After the Bell programs (Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab & Go and Second Chance) that make breakfast part of the school day. These breakfast delivery models make it easier for free and reduced price eligible kids to eat breakfast by removing the most often cited barriers:
- Stigma associated with free or reduced priced breakfast in the cafeteria before school
- Late arrivals at school
- Finicky eaters who aren’t hungry until later in the morning
- Time to hang out with peers before the bell rings
Educators tell us they have seen marked improvement in their students’ behavior, concentration, health and attendance since implementing Breakfast After the Bell programs. They’re also telling us that their child nutrition budgets are also getting a boost from the increased breakfast participation. Child nutrition departments often have very narrow margins and end up in the “red” at the end of the year with a shortfall to make up. That, however, seems to be changing.
Data from the Arkansas Department of Education suggests that our efforts to increase school breakfast participation have been successful. Not only are more breakfasts being served to students, but child nutrition budgets are showing positive financial effects as the number of their United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reimbursements increases.
In a state that has gone from #1 in child food insecurity to #5* since becoming a No Kid Hungry campaign proof of concept state, it is gratifying to see that our efforts appear to be making a difference for the children of our state. We look forward to getting definitive data on the academic achievement gains Arkansas students have made since the focus on breakfast was initiated.