Nutrition Education Resources

Breakfast at School: Fast and Healthy Food for Thought

Want your students to be more alert, focused and ready to tackle the day's academic challenges? Encourage them to eat breakfast. Not just on test days, but every day of the year. It's well-documented that breakfast eaters are healthier and more energetic throughout the day.

Breakfast Improves Academic Achievement and Behavior

Eating a nutritious breakfast helps students achieve the classroom goals that you've set for them. National studies consistently confirm that breakfast helps kids concentrate, think, behave and learn. Eating breakfast:

  • Improves children's classroom performance, including better test scores and grades
  • Increases children's ability to focus and concentrate on school work
  • Decreases behavior problems, tardiness and visits to the school nurse
  • Increases attendance rates

Just as important, when students routinely start their day with breakfast, they learn habits that carry over to their teen and adult years, and serve them for a lifetime.

A Closer Look at the Research

Maryland Meals for Achievement (MMFA) Breakfast Pilot Program...

  • This is one of the most comprehensive evaluations of a breakfast program. Conducted by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, the report includes Year III program findings.

How was breakfast served?

  • Participating schools offered Breakfast in the Classroom to every student, every morning, regardless of family income.

What were the key findings?

  • Composite scores on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) improved significantly more in the MMFA schools than matched comparison schools from the same school systems.
  • Tardiness decreased by 8%.
  • Suspensions decreased by 36%.
  • 91% of the staff said the program should continue in their school.

Download Classroom Breakfast Scores High in Maryland.

Minnesota's Fast Break to Learning Breakfast Program...

Excellent results were reported for the First-Year Results of the Fast Break to Learning School Breakfast Program by the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning.

How was breakfast served?

  • Breakfast was offered to all students, at little or no charge, and often served after the school day started, either in the classroom or the cafeteria.

What were the findings?

  • On three out of four Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment Test (MCAT) reading and math tests, 3rd and 5th graders in Fast Break schools improved academic achievement more than the control group schools.
  • 97% of principals either 'strongly agreed' or 'agreed' their school benefited from the program. Principals mentioned decreased negative behavior and tardiness as the top benefits.

Download the Fast Break to Learning Executive Summary for more information.

Learn more about the studies that demonstrate the benefits of students eating breakfast.

School Breakfast Ensures a Nutritious Start Every Day

School breakfast is the perfect option for children who don't have time to eat at home, don't have access to breakfast at home, or simply aren't hungry first thing in the morning. In fact, school breakfast is a great option for all kids! Why?

  • School breakfast supplies 1/4 of the Recommended Daily Allowances a child needs.
  • It's a healthy, nutritious meal that provides a variety of foods.
  • It's easy and convenient — for the kids, for teachers and for parents. Parents can feel comfortable that their children are eating a nutritious meal and getting the best possible start to a day of learning.
  • It helps maximize learning time by making sure that kids are a ready to learn.

Teachers' Role

For any number of reasons, many children don't eat breakfast at home. And if breakfast is available in the cafeteria, many children don't take advantage of it. They are too busy socializing, or affected by the potential social stigma that the program is for low-income students. Teachers play an important role in encouraging children to reap the benefits of school breakfast.

  • Support school breakfast. Talk to your school's nutrition staff to learn more about the program.
  • Let students know that school breakfast is for everyone, and encourage them to take advantage of it.
  • Promote school breakfast to students as a "tool" that can help them learn.
  • If school breakfast isn't served in your school, create a dialogue about starting a program with the administration and school nutrition services. Download the Child Nutrition Fact Sheet: Breakfast for Learning that summarizes key research findings connecting breakfast and academic performance, and share it with them.
  • If your school serves breakfast, but only in the cafeteria, generate a dialogue with the school nutrition director about Expanding Breakfast service outside the cafeteria.

Expanding Breakfast: A Proven Way to Improve Student Learning, Performance and Health

Many schools capture breakfast skippers by Expanding Breakfast service beyond the cafeteria's walls. They find that when they take breakfast to students, instead of expecting them to come to the cafeteria, more students from all socio-economic levels eat breakfast and gain the academic, behavioral and nutritional benefits. Typically, schools use one of three approaches, depending on their unique setting:

  • Breakfast in the Classroom — Students eat breakfast in their classroom, either at the beginning of or early in the school day. A breakfast of easy-to-eat items, such as breakfast sandwiches and burritos, low-fat muffins, French toast sticks or cereals, plus milk and fruit or juice, are brought from the cafeteria to the classroom, often by students.
  • Grab 'n' Go Breakfast — Breakfast is packaged so students can quickly grab it from the cafeteria or carts elsewhere in the school. They eat it in the cafeteria, the classroom or on the school grounds.
  • Breakfast After 1st Period — Usually served in middle and high schools, students are allowed to get breakfast after their first period.

Whatever the approach, participation soars when schools expand breakfast service options, and everyone, from teachers to students to parents wins!

Can Expanding Breakfast Work in Your school? Absolutely!

Learn more about Expanding Breakfast and ways you can work with your school foodservice staff to bring breakfast to your students. It's a great way to support your school wellness program.

 

Breakfast in My Classroom? You've Got to be Kidding!

It's no surprise that some teachers are skeptical initially and have a lot of questions about Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab 'n' Go Breakfast and Breakfast After 1st Period. Here's what we've learned from talking to teachers in schools that serve Breakfast in the Classroom and other Expanding Breakfast options:

 

  • It's a little bit more work, but much less than teachers think. Current teacher participants, even the skeptical ones, say it's well worth the effort and they want the programs to continue once they've tried it.
  • Teachers report they have actually gained instructional time due to fewer disciplinary interruptions and nurse visits, and less tardiness and absenteeism.
  • It doesn't take a lot of time. Breakfast in the Classroom generally takes about 10 minutes to serve, eat, and clean up, and is often done during morning activities, such as announcements, daily oral language or individual reading time. Many teachers find that Breakfast in the Classroom is a successful transitional activity that helps children settle in at the beginning of the day.

Still Have Questions?

We're not surprised. As we mentioned above, some teachers, and even school nutrition professionals, are skeptical about Expanding Breakfast, and especially about serving Breakfast in the Classroom. It's a great way to support school wellness and help your school meet the demands for improved academic performance. We've done our homework and anticipated the questions that teachers like you have.

Click here to find answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

Learn more about Expanding Breakfast and ways you can work with your school nutrition staff to bring breakfast to your students.