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School breakfast vital to fight hunger in America

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Feeding America's report on the hunger crisis facing this country reveals where we can improve child nutrition programs. School breakfast is one of those areas.

The federal government's program of providing free or reduced price school breakfast and lunches is a safety net for impoverished families. However, school breakfast is not available for many children. The Feeding America report highlights this fact.

Of households interviewed for the study, only about 46.2 percent said their children received free or reduced price school breakfast. This compared to 93.7 percent that received a free or reduced price school lunch. Clearly, participation in the breakfast program needs to catch up to strengthen the school feeding initiative.

Earlier this year the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), along with educational organizations, created the Breakfast for Learning Education Alliance. Their goal is to increase the number of students who receive school breakfast. This is vital for fighting child hunger and improving health and education levels.

While there has been some progress in recent years improving school breakfast numbers, more needs to be done. A report from FRAC states that nationwide, "for every 100 low-income children eating school lunch, only 51 ate school breakfast."

Serving breakfast in the classroom is considered a successful strategy deserving of wider implementation. The meal is available free of charge to every student. The Breakfast for Learning Education Alliance states,

In schools that have successfully implemented Breakfast in the Classroom, the meal typically occurs done during morning activities, such as announcements, individual reading time, while the teachers collect homework or go over the day’s lesson plan, so no instructional time is lost. Many teachers and principals in fact have reported gains in instructional time: breakfast in the classroom is a great way to strengthen the learning environment. Children cannot learn on an empty stomach."

In Boston this approach was tried and resulted in the improvement of school breakfast numbers. FRAC reports that "nearly 72 low-income children in Boston eat breakfast for every 100 that eat lunch," numbers significantly higher than the national rate. Congress has the opportunity to expand such an approach to school breakfast through the Child Nutrition Act.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It's also one of the most important strategies for reducing child hunger in America.

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