A while back,The Health Junction did a series on the importance of breakfast for the optimization of cognitive function and a healthy Body Mass Index. While many adults don’t eat breakfast and suffer the consequences, it’s far more troublesome when children skip this most important meal of the day.
In my new job as a Nutrition Staff with The Toronto Foundation for Student Success (TDSB) I work with middle school children and when I ask them what they had for breakfast, I would estimate 7 out of 10 of them say “nothing”. The TDSB recent published a report called “Feeding Our Future” that studied breakfast patterns and academic performance and it confirmed what we already knew: when kids are well fueled, they are less often absent from school and their performance is improved.
Key findings from the study outlined that meals should be diverse, clean, and involve student participation. Breakfast was able to be provided to children in the Feeding Our Future study for only $1 a day but I was surprised to learn that 75% of the budget came from fundraising. In fact, Canada does not have a national child breakfast program.
This got me thinking about a TED talk I just listened to by Chef Ann Cooper – you may know her as the Renegade Lunch Lady. Ann Cooper use to be a famous chef but gave it all up to work at the Boulder District School Board as their Director of Nutrition. Cooper believes that nutrition for children is so important it should be under the jurisdiction of the Centre for Disease Control rather than the USDA. In her talk, Cooper states that “if we believe that everything that happens in the school is part of the educational experience then we have to think that school lunch is training our kids, teaching them, and educating them to eat in a certain way.”
By not mandating healthy breakfast and lunch for kids in all schools, are we failing to practice what we preach? We can fund curriculum but does any of it even matter if a child doesn’t have the capacity to learn because he/she is hungry? Do you think it would be worth transferring funds from academic curriculum to cover off school breakfast and lunch programs?
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