As the nation continues to grapple with the pandemic, as many as 1 in 6 kids are facing hunger.
Luckily, we have at our disposal a powerful tool to make sure kids don’t have to start their day with an empty stomach. School breakfast provides the consistent nutrition kids need to learn, grow and reach their full potential.
Eating breakfast has a real, powerful effect on kids. Research shows that kids who eat breakfast are more focused, score significantly higher on tests, and miss less days of school. That means those kids are more likely to graduate.
“One of the things that really helps many of our students is that we have a free breakfast program here," said Jonathan Grow, principal at Lockerman Middle School in Caroline County, MD. "Some depend on that meal right away in the morning, and honestly, when they get into the school day, that gives them that energy to get through the rest of their day. They’re able to focus a little bit more and have a more successful day.”
When COVID-19 hit us two years ago, everything changed overnight. School breakfast was no exception.
Thanks to the compassion and innovative spirit of school nutrition staff across the country - bolstered by new flexibilities allowed by the USDA - meal programs were adapted to reach kids in their time of need. We saw meal sites pop up in the parking lot of shuttered schools, and bus drivers transporting meals along delivery routes, bringing food directly to kids in need.
When kids were finally able to return to school buildings, alternative breakfast models like grab-and-go and breakfast in the classroom kept students and staff safe, while also ensuring more kids could benefit from the morning meal they rely on.
As a result, nearly 14 million kids across the country benefited from school breakfast last school year alone.
These are the common sense solutions No Kid Hungry has long advocated for and invested in to improve access to school breakfast. Even in normal times, they remove barriers that prevent kids from eating breakfast before school starts, like rushed mornings, bus schedules and even stigma.
Now, as we all strive to regain a sense of normalcy, our students would benefit from these breakfast options being made permanent.
Ensuring our kids remain nourished is the smartest investment we can make to ensure they’re ready to tackle the challenges of tomorrow - whatever they may be.