MADISON – Several recent studies show that many children do not eat a nutritious breakfast every morning.
“Studies conclude that students who eat school breakfast at the start of the school day show a general increase in math and reading scores, as well as improvement in their speed and memory on cognitive tests,” said Boone County School Superintendent John Hudson.
Hudson says often families are living on very tight budgets and can’t afford to provide good breakfasts at home every day, nor the money to buy them at school.
“Regardless of income, families today live busy lives that often make it difficult to sit down long enough in the morning to eat a nutritious breakfast,” he said. “Sometimes children are not physically capable of eating breakfast at home when they first wake up. Other children may have long commutes to school or long periods between breakfast at home and school lunch, making breakfast at school an important option.”
Now, for the first time, all students at Boone County public schools will receive a free healthy breakfast at no charge, regardless of economic status.
“This is great news for Boone County,” Hudson said.
Hudson said the vision of The Boone County Board of Education to get the county school system qualified for the federally-funded free meals programs allowed for the recently approved the changes to the School Nutrition Program for students.
The change will also allow elementary school students to receive a free healthy breakfast and lunch at no charge, regardless of economic status, Hudson added.
Hudson said the county school system does not make a profit from the free meals programs and hopes to break even with the funding they receive from federal reimbursements.
The program is already proving its worth, Hudson said.
“We are seeing that children who eat breakfast at school, closer to class and test-taking time, perform better on standardized tests than those who skip breakfast or eat breakfast at home,” he said. “Children who have school breakfast eat more fruit, drink more milk and consume a wider variety of foods than those who don’t eat breakfast or have breakfast at home.”
Ideally, the additional meal will help students perform better in the classroom. Staff members and teachers in the county have reported there have been fewer students sent to the nurse’s office complaining of headaches and other issues, Hudson added.
“We know that starting kids off with breakfast or something in their stomachs is very important,” Hudson said. “Studies show that schools that provide breakfast at no cost to all students report decreases in discipline and psychological problems, visits to the school nurses and tardiness, while showing increases in student attentiveness and attendance.”