Free school breakfast is an idea whose time has come
Hopefully, not very many people reading this knows what it is like to feel the distraction of nagging hunger pangs when they are trying tend to their daily schedule. Adults have a measure of control over the problem, but many children don’t.
It’s been estimated about 30 percent of the children in Haywood County are food insecure, the technical term for not having access to enough safe, nutritious food. It’s not hard to imagine what it would be like to concentrate on school work with a growling stomach.
That’s why a pilot program offering free breakfast to students is such a good idea.
The free breakfast program is made possible through funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees numerous food and nutrition programs, and provides a quick but nutritious breakfast to all students in the selected schools.
So far, the program has been implemented in North Canton Elementary, Central Elementary, Tuscola High and Bethel Middle schools. The program is quick. Students get a limited choice of breakfast items to choose from — choices which vary sort of like the lunch picks. Both teachers and students give the program high marks. Teachers say students seem less distracted. Students say they like having a quick breakfast right in the classroom before they start their day.
Studies done by the Food Research and Action Center have found students who eat school breakfast increase their math and reading scores as well as improve their speed and memory in cognitive tests. Research also shows that children who eat breakfast at school – closer to class and test-taking time – perform better on standardized tests than those who skip breakfast or eat breakfast at home.
There is also growing evidence that children who eat school breakfast are less likely to be overweight and have improved nutrition because they eat more fruits, drink more milk and consume a wider variety of foods than those who don’t eat breakfast or have breakfast at home.
With nearly a 40 percent of the student population in Haywood falling into the overweight or obese category, and 30 percent with food insecurity issues, serving breakfast at school sounds like an ideal solution to address two issues at once.
We commend those responsible for recognizing two important issues. Some families, no matter how hard they try, cannot afford a breakfast for their child. Others simply don't make time to ensure their children get something to eat before putting them on the school bus or dropping them off. Our future is truly in the hands of our children. It's only appropriate those hands aren't empty.