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Healthy Eating and Wellness Efforts

The School Breakfast Program is important to low-income children’s well-being and provides well-documented nutritional and health benefits—but the program can be even stronger. Efforts to expand access to school breakfast should go hand-in-hand with efforts to improve the quality of menu items. Children are attracted to school breakfast when given food choices that are attractive (i.e., eye-appealing and tasty), fresh, convenient (e.g., no lines), kid-friendly, culturally appropriate, and served at the proper temperature.

USDA will propose early in 2011 updated standards for breakfast menus to reflect the latest scientific evidence. Most of the districts that participated in this study are already moving forward in improving their breakfast offerings. Twenty-eight of the 29 districts in this study reported recently taking one or more of the following actions to improve the quality of their breakfasts:

  • 1.

    Reduced sugar content of offerings (92.9%)

  • 2.

    Increased percentage of whole grains (82.1%)

  • 3.

    Removed trans fat from offerings (71.4%)

  • 4.

    Offered only 1% and non-fat milk (67.9%)

  • 5.

    Added a serving of fruit (50.0%)

  • 6.

    Switched from juice to whole fruit (42.9%)

When low-income children have greater access to the nutrient-rich foods provided through the School Breakfast Program, evidence suggests that their risk of obesity is lowered, which is why most healthy eating and physical activity initiatives in schools include the promotion of school breakfast. Twenty-seven of the 29 districts are involved in one or more of these healthy eating/wellness initiatives:

  • 1.

    Fuel Up to Play 60 (63.0%)

  • 2.

    Alliance for a Healthier Generation (55.6%)

  • 3.

    Healthier US Schools Challenge (51.9%)

  • 4.

    Action for Healthy Kids (29.6%)

  • 5.

    Other – e.g. “Healthy Trays”; partnership with NBA to promote breakfast; farm to school (25.9%)

For more information on the connection between improvements in the school meal programs and the fight against child obesity and hunger, see FRAC’s Issue Brief How Improving Federal Nutrition Program Access and Quality Work Together to Reduce Hunger and Promote Healthy Eating at http://frac.org/initiatives/hunger-and- obesity/.

Fuel Up to Play 60 Supports School Breakfast

Seventeen of the 29 districts in this study participate in Fuel Up to Play 60, which is a partnership between the National Dairy Council and the National Football League (NFL), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to empower youth to take action to improve nutrition and physical activity at their school and for their own health. Several districts, including Atlanta, Boston, Pittsburgh, and San Diego, received grants from the project to support their school breakfast programs. In Boston, 25 schools received $1,000 breakfast promotion grants. In San Diego, funds from the initiative supply colorful, educational placemats to all schools implementing in-classroom breakfast. In Pittsburgh, Banksville Elementary School won the Fuel Up to Play 60 "My Breakfast Promise" contest and a visit from local NFL star Hines Ward. More than 200 students at the school made a promise to eat breakfast and participate in a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity every day. The event included exercises and question and answer sessions with Hines Ward and a registered dietician stressing the importance of breakfast and the rationale for offering universal breakfast to all students every day. In the 2010–2011 school year, the program will distribute a total of $100,000 to school districts across the country to help schools build or expand their breakfast programs.

For more information go to: www.fueluptoplay60.com

Food Research and Action Center

School Breakfast in America’s Big Cities


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