By Mary Kuhlman
Indiana schools have been working to ensure that all children, especially those who are low-income, start their day with a healthy breakfast. But a new report shows there is room for improvement.
The Food Research and Action Center found that less than half of the students who participated in federally funded school lunch programs also took part in the School Breakfast program. Lindsey Hill, president of the Indiana School Nutrition Association, said schools are trying to boost those numbers by offering breakfast outside of the cafeteria setting.
"Breakfast is actually delivered to the classroom in the mornings, and it's a part of their day," she said. "Other schools have done grab-and-go breakfasts where the breakfast is available as students get off the bus and they walk into the school building. It just makes it easier and faster than maybe having to walk down to the cafeteria."
Indiana is sharing in a recent $5 million grant to rework how school breakfast is delivered, and Hill said school administrators and food-service directors around the state are collaborating to develop new strategies to reach more kids. Indiana ranks 34th nationally for participation in free school breakfast programs.
National implementation of the Community Eligibility Provision, allowing eligible low-income students to feed all students free of charge, began this year. The Indianapolis Public School District is among those offering it, and Hill said it is a good way to start the school day.
"The stigma of breakfast being only something that needy kids get is gone," she said. "Breakfast in schools is actually something the children want to do because it's fun and they get to socialize with their friends as well."
According to the report, school breakfast programs have been linked to improved nutrition, fewer disciplinary problems and fewer missed days of school. Hill said the programs also help students learn better because they are not distracted by an empty stomach.