Pennsylvania, at the back of the line of the School Breakfast Program
It is a fact that breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, especially for children. However – unfortunately— it is also a fact that millions of US families do not have enough resources to provide a healthy breakfast for their children each morning. A deficiency that national initiatives such as School Breakfast Program (SBP) –the equivalent of the National Lunch Program or NLP—are trying to correct by offering partially or totally paid for breakfasts –depending on the income level of each family—at schools.
During the last course, 13.2 million children participated in the SBP, 85% --11.2 million—of those classified as low resource, according to that revealed by a study carried out by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). The study by the FRAC also shows large inequalities between states, a comparison in which Pennsylvania is not precisely in good standing. With an average of 272,503 students benefiting from this program on a daily basis, compared with the 602,297 participating in the NLP, Pennsylvania holds 41st place on the list of states, given that only 45 percent of the children of scarce resources that eat in school also have breakfast there.
“Pennsylvania needs to change its method. This report reveals that less than half of the students enjoying government funded meals also receive a healthy breakfast. School districts can do better by ensuring that their low economic resource students enjoy a healthy breakfast and do so at no cost”, Donna Cooper, CEO of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, affirmed. “The state can play a much greater role and this study should be the wake- up call that Pennsylvania needs to be up to par with other states”, Cooper declared.
However, and as always, exceptions exist and Pennsylvania’s exception is called Penn Wood Middle School, a center located in Derby (Delaware County) that has become a true example for the state. Eighty percent of the eligible students participating in this program, during the 2013/2014 school year, in addition to food, received a healthy breakfast, a figure that increased by 57 points in a single school year –only 23 percent participated in the 2012/2013 school year. One of the secrets of this great improvement? Changing the time and place in which it is served, moving it inside the classrooms in the 8:00 to approximately 8:10am class period.
“This year it is fabulous not to have children losing their concentration throughout the day, since we are helping them begin their day well, explains one of the school teachers, Elissa Morgan, in statements published by Newsworks. “As a teacher, knowing that the children begin the day with an important meal and that it is also healthy, I have noticed greater concentration. In previous years, when we neared the middle of the morning, I noticed that many children complained of headaches and my first question was: Did you have breakfast?” A question that is now affirmatively responded by fantastic figure.