Across the country, millions of students benefit from free breakfast at school. Offered in low-income districts as an overall health initiative for healthier kids, the idea behind making breakfast as accessible as possible is that children who eat the first meal of the day are more equipped to learn. Philadelphia has a widespread free breakfast program throughout the city, but studies conducted by the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education have shown us some interesting facts about school breakfast and weight gain
Basically, kids that are served breakfast in the classroom during first period gain more weight than students who have to go to the cafeteria to get breakfast. Some theories behind this are that kids may be double- or triple-dipping, having breakfast at home and/or buying something on the walk to school, and then partaking of the breakfast put in front of them in class. All the breakfasts in the study met USDA school nutritional guidelines, including fruit or fruit juice, a grain, and a protein/milk. There was no caloric difference between the meals offered in the classroom versus the cafeteria.
The conclusion of the research was that more was needed, and that perhaps students need additional nutritional information and education to supplement that which is already part of the city program. The current program includes standard nutritional teaching, plus tags on foods that help kids make healthier choices about what they eat for breakfast. Monthly newsletters go home to parents, who also receive a schedule of what’s on the menu for the coming month, so that the whole family can be integrated into the process.
The city has introduced the One Healthy Breakfast initiative, which doubles down on the educational portion of the breakfast program, with kids getting 18 nutrition education lessons about the importance of eating a good breakfast. So far, the results are promising.