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According to a recent survey, 93% of Americans agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yet fewer than half (44%) are eating it daily. 2011 Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes Toward Food Safety, Nutrition & Health; International Food Information Council Foundation.
Research shows that hunger impairs a child’s ability to learn. Eating breakfast at school helps to improve children’s academic performance by enhancing alertness, comprehension and memory. School breakfast programs improve the health of children through improved nutrition, and may protect against childhood obesity.
For this reason, a diverse group of agencies, organizations, and businesses are working together to promote the benefits of a healthy breakfast for everyone in Washington through two campaigns:
The new Healthy Breakfast Initiative launched this month. Its goal is to promote healthy eating in schools and communities, fight obesity, reduce childhood hunger and increase academic achievement by:
This initiative concludes the work of the Healthy Communities Partnership, formed last fall. The diversity of organizations represented through this partnership was essential in bringing about the approaches intended with this initiative,” notes Margaret Hansen, School Health Manager for DOH.
The Breakfast Action Team was formed to carry out the Healthy Breakfast Initiative. The team’s goal is to develop both private and public partnerships to support broad scale environmental and systems changes. Hansen points out, “These types of broad changes are effective and far more sustainable than changes attempted in individual sectors.” To do this, some partners will focus on communications and messaging activities. They’ve already decided on the slogan “Fuel Up -- Eat Breakfast Washington.” Other partners will work together on policy development. Everyone will work to capitalize on the activities they were already doing within their organizations spanning communication, policy development, training and technical assistance, financial resources and evaluation. To measure the initiative’s success, OSPI will monitor school breakfast consumption data and the Children’s Alliance will share barriers and wins in school implementation of healthy breakfast.
Nearly half of school children in our state are eligible for free and reduced school lunch through the National School Lunch Program. Many of those children arrive to school hungry, but right now only about 30% of them eat breakfast through the program,according to data from the 2009-2010 school year. Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn kicked off the Fuel Up First with Breakfast Initiative last August to bridge this gap. Its goal is to increase the number of children who participate in the free and reduced breakfast benefit by 50% in two years. To help meet the goal, school districts will be automatically entered into the Fuel Up First with Breakfast Challenge making them eligible to receive awards and cash prizes for increasing participation in their school breakfast programs. In addition, some schools will get small grants to help them prepare for serving breakfast.
Healthy Communities Partnership Steering Committee
American Heart Association
Fuel Up First With Breakfast
Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign
Washington Restaurant Association
Washington State Dairy Council
Washington State Department of Health
Washington State University
According to Hansen, evaluation will be a key element of these initiatives. For example, OSPI will monitor school breakfast participation and the Children’s Alliance will evaluate and share barriers and successes in implementing the initiatives in schools.
Featured: March 2012
Margaret Hansen, Coordinated School Health Manager, WA Department of Health, 360-236-3757