How one small change got more students eating breakfast regularly.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. For children, however, it may be more important than we knew.

In a 2015 survey, 3 out of 4 public school teachers said they taught students who regularly came to school hungry. The biggest reason it was happening? Not enough food at home.

There are over 13 million kids who live in food-insecure families right now, meaning over 13 million kids don't have access to a reliable source of nutrition.


"If the students are not eating and not taking care of themselves with basic needs such as breakfast, then they’re not going to perform or be able to listen well in the classroom," says Dan Sharp, director of nutrition services for Mesa County Valley School District 51 in Colorado. "It’s a critically important aspect for them to be able to learn."

Research shows that hunger can affect a child's behavior and brain development.

A review from RTI International found that food insecurity can damage a child's developing brain and reduce his or her capacity to learn. One study even found that third-graders who've been food-insecure since kindergarten saw a 13% drop in their reading and math test scores when compared to their food-secure classmates.

This clearly reduces a hungry child's potential for success in school — and in life.

Here's the thing though: Over 89,000 schools already offer breakfast. But only around half of the low-income student population participates.

That's right. Out of over 21 million students who qualify for a school breakfast, only 54% actually take advantage of it.

Image via Benny Lin/Flickr.

Why? Well, for many of these students, there's a certain stigma that comes along with it. Many are scared they'll be labeled as the "poor kids" when they're seen in the cafeteria so early. For others, they simply don't have the luxury to get to school way before class starts.

That's why school breakfast programs are more successful when meals are served after the first bell.

Hence the name for the Breakfast After the Bell legislation. Essentially, what this means is that some schools are no longer making breakfast an incentive if you're early. Rather, they're making it part of the normal school day. Schools either serve breakfast in the actual classroom or place a "grab and go" cart in the hallway for students to get what they need.

"It’s not just an educational importance," said Sharp. "To me, it’s also a childhood hunger program. It really is. It’s providing a gap in food needs for the highest poverty households that are in our school districts."

This minor shift in the model has already produced some exciting results.

Image via No Kid Hungry, used with permission.

A study by Deloitte found that students who eat breakfast in the classroom score an average of 17.5% higher on their standardized math tests.

They're more alert, more behaved, and less likely to get sick now that they have the fuel they need. This, in turn, sets them up for a much brighter future.

"The one [statistic] that really stood out to me was that those students who do eat a school breakfast have a 20% higher chance of graduating than their other counterparts who do not," Sharp said. "I thought that was a pretty significant impact."

Many cities and states are starting to make Breakfast After the Bell mandatory, but there’s still a lot of work left to be done.

Image via Channing Johnson for No Kid Hungry, used with permission.

Since 2010, several states, the District of Columbia, and cities like Los Angeles and New York City have required schools to serve breakfast after the bell. With the success and participation rates they've seen, it's absolutely important for other states to take notice of how this little change has the potential to make a huge impact.

Starting the day on a satisfied tummy can set the foundation for a successful future.

When you aren't hungry, it's easier to take on anything the world will throw your way. So the next time you wonder just how important breakfast is, just think about the future generations.

Most Shared
True
Quaker Common Threads
Instagram / Jameela Jamil

Being a celebrity must suck, because you can't talk about personal decisions without everyone feeling they need to have their say. However, some celebrities just don't care what the haters think and are going to live their lives how they see fit. Nobody does it better than actress and activist Jameela Jamil.

Earlier this year, Jamil revealed she had an abortion seven years ago. "I had an abortion when I was young, and it was the best decision I have ever made. Both for me, and for the baby I didn't want, and wasn't ready for, emotionally, psychologically and financially. So many children will end up in foster homes. So many lives ruined. So very cruel," she wrote on Twitter. Jamil decided to reveal her abortion after Georgia's controversial fetal heartbeat abortion law was passed.

RELATED: Jameela Jamil wants women to stop apologizing for 'being ambitious'

Now, Jamil says she's living her best life, because her decision was not a "mistake" – even if other people see it that way.

"Receiving THOUSANDS of messages about how I made a mistake having an abortion 7 years ago and how I must be a miserable person. I am in fact a happy, thriving multi millionaire, madly in love, with free time, good sleep and a wonderful career and life. But thanks for checking," the "Good Place" actress wrote on Twitter.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via @ResistMoveTRM / Twitter

The number of people dying from drug overdoses in the U.S. is staggering. In 2017, 70,237 people died from drug overdoses, 47,600 of those were from opioids.

According to the CDC, that number has increased over five times since 1999. Since 2011, an alarming number of opioid deaths have been caused by fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid.

Keep Reading Show less
Family

Image by Brent Connelly from Pixabay and sixthformpoet / Twitter

Twitter user Matt, who goes by the name @SixthFormPoet, shared a dark love story on Twitter that's been read by nearly 600,000 people. It starts in a graveyard and feels like it could be the premise for a Tim Burton film.

While it's hard to verify whether the story is true, Matt insists that it's real, so we'll believe him.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture