Eat. Play. Learn. L is for LUNCH

To celebrate the publication of Proceedings of the Learning Connection Summit: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Student Achievement, I’m offering a short daily post during February on the ABCs of the health and academics.

L is for LUNCH

We hear lots of talk about breakfast being the most important meal of the day, especially for children in school. And, when we talk about childhood hunger, most of the conversation is again about insuring that food insecure children have access to school breakfast. But, what about school lunch? Is lunch any less important than breakfast at school?

School lunch is just as important for focus, concentration and learning as breakfast – just in the afternoon instead of the morning. More children have access to school lunch than school breakfast, but sadly many children may not have enough time or the right atmosphere to actually eat and enjoy the lunch they are served. Experts agree that students need at least 15 to 20 minutes of seat time for lunch. Unfortunately many children have 10 minutes or less to sit and eat at lunchtime – and often the cafeteria is loud or managed more like a prison with whistles, lights out and silence for bad behavior.

The good news is that some schools are creating Comfortable Cafeterias, which encourage students to socialize and enjoy their lunch – without being pressured to eat or to hurry. I have worked with Montana Team Nutrition on resources for Pleasant and Positive Mealtimes. The goal is make cafeterias inviting places for children to eat – so that the food goes into them rather than into trash cans. It is only nutrition when they eat or drink it!

Just look at the wonderful tray that this student in Bethel, Oregon, chose on the lunch line and consider for a moment how long it will take her to eat it – even without distractions from other students and cafeteria aides! With a a beautiful lunch like this, children need time and encouragement to eat, so they can pay attention and learn in the afternoon.

First Grade Student in Bethel School District, Eugene, Oregon

First Grade Student in Bethel School District, Eugene, Oregon

Eat. Play. Learn. H is for HUNGRY.

To celebrate the publication of Proceedings of the Learning Connection Summit: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Student Achievement, I’m offering a short daily post during February on the ABCs of the health and academics.

H is for HUNGRY

When I hear that schools are closed for days in a row, my immediate thought is about what those children will eat when they do not have access to school meals. If children regularly come to school hungry, it means that they do not have access to food at home. And, when the weather is bad, their families may be even less able to shop for groceries or visit a food bank. Honestly, for millions of American children, a snow day may be a hungry day. Preliminary 2013 USDA data shows that an average of 18.9 million children ate a free school lunch daily and 10.1 million ate a school breakfast on average.

The numbers in the previous paragraph also tell another story as well – that is the enormous ‘breakfast gap’ of 8.8 million children who are eligible but are not receiving a free breakfast. These are the children who may to be too hungry to learn as reported in the deeply disturbing Hunger in Our Schools: Teachers Report 2013 by No Kid Hungry: Share Our Strength. If nearly 73 percent of teachers regular try to teach hungry children, we are a very serious educational problem in our schools. The simple fact is that hungry children cannot focus, concentrate and learn. School breakfast is one obvious solution and I applaud the administrators and educators who are ramping up their efforts to expand the program. Michigan State Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan is is a true nutrition hero for promoting the “First Fuel” Breakfast Challenge in his state – and I am proud to be part of the Michigan Team Nutrition training for this effort. Too hungry to learn is unacceptable for any child in Michigan, Montana or any other US state.

SHARE OUR STRENGTH’S TEACHERS REPORT 2013

SHARE OUR STRENGTH’S
TEACHERS REPORT 2013

Eat. Play. Learn. C is for CLASSROOM

To celebrate the publication of Proceedings of the Learning Connection Summit: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Student Achievement, I’m offering a short daily post during February on the ABCs of the health and academics.

C is for CLASSROOM

As they say in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. Many educators and school administrators are asking if a classroom is the right location for a school breakfast. The answer from superintendents, principals, teachers and students across the country is a resounding YES. From reading the research, visiting the schools and talking with stakeholders, these are the top four reasons that I’m a big believer in – and booster for – breakfast in the classroom (BIC), sometimes called breakfast after the bell.

  1. Serving breakfast in the classroom is a proven strategy for increasing breakfast participation. The Food Research and Action Center’s (FRAC) 2014 School Breakfast Scorecard credits increased numbers of low-income students eating breakfast to strategies like moving it out of the cafeteria into the classroom.
  2. Students like the comfortable atmosphere of their classroom better than a loud cafeteria. Eating in a classroom – with an opt-out option – reduces the stigma of breakfast-for-poor-kids-only. When I talk to students, like those in the photo below, they tell me they like to eat with their friends in a quiet, calm place.
  3. Teachers see positive results when students eat a morning meal in the classroom. The 2013 Too Hungry to Learn report showed that 75% of teachers liked knowing that their students are energized and ready to learn. Seventy-six percent use the time to take attendance, 65% make classroom announcements.
  4. School administrators have also embraced the benefits of serving breakfast in the classroom. In 2013, the American Association of School Administrators (AASA, The Superintendents Association) published an issue of their magazine on Improving Attendance, Health and Behavior: Moving Breakfast Out of the Cafeteria.

Breakfast in the classroom is good for students, educators and administrators. I call that a win-win-win – and clearly this classroom does too.

OKC BIC-4

Eat. Play. Learn. B is for BREAKFAST

To celebrate the publication of Proceedings of the Learning Connection Summit: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Student Achievement, I’m offering a short daily post during February on the ABCs of the health and academics.

B is for BREAKFAST

Want the low-down on the benefits of breakfast for school-aged children? Just ask those on the front lines of education – classroom teachers. That is what Share our Strength did in the No Kid Hungry 2012 Teacher’s Report Hunger in Our Schools.

Teachers know the realities of hunger in America’s classrooms – and they know the educational, behavioral and health benefits of breakfast (see graph below). What they may not know is that school breakfast also helps to fill the nutrition gaps experienced by US children and teens. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Advisory Committee Report, American young people, especially teenage girls, have numerous nutrient ‘shortfalls.’ Many are not getting enough vitamin A, C and E, magnesium and phosphorus. Even more are lacking the four nutrients of concern: vitamin D, potassium, calcium and dietary fiber.

The good news it is that a simple school breakfast – fruit, whole grain cereal or bread, and low-fat dairy – helps to fill those nutrient gaps. School breakfast also provides the protein and energy that students need to focus, concentrate and learn until lunch time. Such a simple meal – with so many breakfast benefits!

2012 NKH Teachers Benefits

Why You Should Support School Breakfast … from HuffPo Parents

A school nutrition director recently wrote to me about how difficult it was to start a Breakfast in the Classroom program in her Pennsylvania school district. One parent had gone so far as to write a blog about the fact that her child did not need breakfast because “she ate at home.” As the director said in her message to me, “I’m beginning to lose sight of why I ever wanted to do this in the first place. I’m sure that the majority of the students and parents will appreciate my efforts, it’s just those few who tend to bring one down!”

Thanks to Betsy, I was inspired to write my second article for The Huffington Post Parents page on “Why You Should Support School Breakfast, Even If Your Kid Eats at Home.” Check it out and find out the three things that every parent can do to support breakfast at school, like signing up for Fuel Up to Play 60.

My mantra: Breakfast every day for every day. At home or at school, breakfast changes lives – and t’s the very least we can do for education.

Breakfast Changes Lives

Breakfast Changes Lives