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Breakfast in the Classroom Fueling Stomachs and Minds of Illinois Students

November 18, 2013

CHICAGO - Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day, and some Illinois schools are using Breakfast in the Classroom programs to ensure that all pupils are fed and ready to learn. A new report from the Food Research and Action Center and The National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation finds more than three in four principals would encourage their peers to consider Breakfast in the Classroom.

According to the executive director of the Illinois Hunger Coalition, Diane Doherty, parents, pupils and teachers also support it and the positive environment it creates.

"They're getting fueled up so that they can learn, they're excited to be there and they're in their classroom, and it's an equal, level playing field, so all kids have the opportunity to start to study with their stomachs full."

Nationally, the School Breakfast Program serves only half of the low-income children who participate in the National School Lunch Program. Doherty said Breakfast in the Classroom eliminates some of the barriers that keep those children from getting food in the morning, including their parents' work schedules, transportation, and increased security. She added that it also reduces the stigma so students don't feel singled out.

"It's embarrassing for children to have to go to a cafeteria, to have to go to a separate part of the school to have breakfast, and we don't want that to happen," she said. "Kids should not feel embarrassed, they shouldn't feel ashamed because their parents can't afford for them to have breakfast."

With Breakfast in the Classroom, principals surveyed noted an increase in breakfast participation, fewer reports of hunger among pupils, fewer children tardy, and improved attentiveness in the classrooms. Additionally, close to half of principals cited no challenges with starting up the program, and those who did found the issues, such as limited janitorial staffing or concerns from teachers, easily addressed. Principals at Chicago Public Schools and Elgin School District U-46 took part in the survey.

The report is at FRAC.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL