Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Policy Point Wednesday - The most important meal of the day

I've written a lot about USDA nutrition programs, like SNAP,  school lunch, and the summer food service program - but what about breakfast?  SBP, or the School Breakfast Program is one of the initiatives to prevent childhood hunger under the Child Nutrition Act.  Easy, right? 

Unfortunately, even the federal government can't agree on the best way to get breakfast to school kids.  A study of a piloted universal school breakfast program was fairly inconclusive about its results, both as to the benefits of school breakfast and whether or not a universal, subsidized program increased breakfast eating.  However, studies that led the USDA to pilot this program did show that breakfast at school helps reduce tardiness and increase attendance, and there are plenty of studies to indicate that breakfast does play a role in school success, wherever it is eaten.

Unlike universal breakfast, in-class breakfast programs have actually been shown to decrease skipped breakfast and to ensure that more kids recieve the benefits of a breakfast.  Arriving at school early and eating breakfast in the cafeteria create a barrier for some families; typically the children who most need the school breakfast have the most difficulty getting to school early.  In addition, school districts have found that as universal in-class school breakfast increases participation, it reduces the labor cost per breakfast, thus proportionately increasing the amount of the government reimbursement that can be spent on the food itself.  The schools piloting this program report that disruption to class time is minimal, as breakfast happens during school announcements and not instructional time.  Another benefit described by the participating children: SNAP dollars go farther now that more meals are eaten at school.

No comments:

Post a Comment