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A Breakfast Celebration for Boston Schoolkids

PHOTO: The Breakfast in the Classroom program has helped put Bostonís public schools at the forefront of a nutrition and education campaign designed to end childhood hunger and turn out healthier and brighter kids. Courtesy FRAC
PHOTO: The Breakfast in the Classroom program has helped put Bostonís public schools at the forefront of a nutrition and education campaign designed to end childhood hunger and turn out healthier and brighter kids. Courtesy FRAC
May 30, 2013

BOSTON - An early morning celebration is set for Mather Elementary School in Dorchester to mark the success of a breakfast-in-the-classroom program that has put Boston's public schools at the forefront of a nutrition and education campaign designed to turn out healthier and brighter students.

They'll be toasting - if not eating toast - the program implemented in eight elementary schools during this school year. In addition to reinforcing the proven benefits of beginning each learning day without the stomach-growling distraction of hunger, the Breakfast in the Classroom program takes into account the shortcomings of relying on low-income families to serve a breakfast - and of the school simply laying out the subsidized meals in the cafeteria.

"If they don't come right into class," said superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson, "they may be distracted or not eat well because they're trying to get to class."

Thanks to the program, an additional 475 children received breakfast each day, doubling participation at these schools. It's expected to roll out to additional schools next fall.

According to the Food Research and Action Center, nearly 70 Boston low-income students eat breakfast for every 100 that eat lunch - as opposed to school districts across the state, where on average only 43 low-income children eat breakfast for every 100 that receive lunch.

"We've really been promoting having students eat breakfast right there in their classrooms," Johnson said, "because we know that when they arrive hungry, they're less likely to be able to concentrate on their schoolwork."

Johnson credited the Newman's Own Foundation and the New England Dairy and Foods Council for their contributions.

"They helped to help defray some of the startup costs," she said, "such as some of the small equipment that you need to make sure that you can feed all of the students at once."

Through what's called the Massachusetts School Breakfast Challenge, the state is urging Massachusetts school districts to increase their school breakfast participation by 35 percent by December 2014.A

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA