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Indiana Expands Efforts to Bring Breakfast to the Classroom

PHOTO: Education and nutrition leaders gathered in Indianapolis for a summit to explore ways districts can offer breakfast to more children in school. Photo courtesy of the USDA.
PHOTO: Education and nutrition leaders gathered in Indianapolis for a summit to explore ways districts can offer breakfast to more children in school. Photo courtesy of the USDA.
April 9, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS - A healthy breakfast has been shown to boost brain power, and Indiana is expanding efforts to ensure every student starts the day ready to learn.

At a nutrition summit Wednesday in Indianapolis, teachers, administrators and food service directors brainstormed ways to get more kids to take part in the federal School Breakfast Program. Lindsay Hill, president of the Indiana School Nutrition Association, says offering breakfast in the classroom has been shown to boost participation.

"People think, 'Oh, it's going to be a mess, it's going to be difficult,'" she says. "There's a lot of practices out there that can sort of eliminate that issue. Schools can work through it and make it successful for everyone involved."

Indiana is one of seven states that received grants from Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom to help schools expand or begin breakfast-in-the-classroom programs. Proposals from districts are being accepted now and letters of intent are due Friday, April 17. The districts will be selected later in the spring.

Priority for the grants will be given to schools where 70 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced-priced meals, yet less than half participate in school breakfast. Todd Bess, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Principals, says districts have flexibility in how to use the funding.

"Maybe you are already doing breakfast in the classroom in one, and you want to expand it to another," he says. "If your needs are a $3,000 cooler, that can be met. If your needs are $50,000 to really develop a whole program, those needs can be met. That's really the advantage to the entire grant program."

Hill says sometimes the stigma of eating a free meal prevents low-income children from participating in school breakfast when it is served in the cafeteria. She says making it part of the school day for the whole class has been shown to make a difference.

"If every student in the school is getting breakfast for free, their participation increases among all students," she says. "So among free/reduced and paid/eligible students the stigma just doesn't exist any more."

Indiana ranks 34th in the nation for participation in free school breakfast programs.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN