McCook breakfast program welcome exception to trend

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The old adage that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" used the "Iowa Breakfast Study" of the 1950s as supporting evidence.

The saying lost some credibility when it was noted in the 1980s that the study covered only a small number of students -- and was financed by the Cereal Institute and included only 50 people, age 12 to 83.

Other studies have been more focused showed more limited results, but there is little doubt that hungry children won't learn as well those who don't have to worry whether they will have enough to eat for lunch.

Advocacy group Nebraska Appleseed notes that Nebraska ranks near the bottom in provident students in need with a nutritious breakfast at school.

The group noted research from the Food Research and Action Center that showed Nebraska was 48th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in the percentage of students receiving school breakfast who also participate in the free or reduced-priced lunch program.

Only Utah, Nevada and Wyoming have lower school breakfast participation than the cornhusker state.

West Virginia has the top participation, with 83.9 percent of students receiving free- or reduced-price lunch at school.

"It remains worrisome that year after year, Nebraska continues to rank near the bottom of the country in ensuring our children are getting the breakfast they need to learn and be healthy," said Eric Savaiona, Nebraska Appleseed economic justice program associate.

"Although we saw progress this year with a slight increase, our state must do more to improve opportunity for children by making sure they're getting a nutritious meal to start the day" he said.

McCook Public Schools are using an innovative program to buck the trend, and it's showing results, according to school officials.

In today's household, time is at a premium, especially in the rushed morning hours.

As a result, many kids have no time for a traditional, sit-down nutritious meal before they have to head off to their first class, and some have inappropriate snack food or no breakfast at all.

In response, McCook has instituted "grab and go" breakfasts giving K-5th students a chance to enjoy a convenient but nutritious breakfast at their desks while they are waiting for lessons to begin.

Since it has been instituted, participation has more than doubled from about 75 students to about 190 students today.

Participants include a mix of students receiving paid, reduced-cost and free breakfasts.

Educators are tasked with getting information into their students' minds, but those brains are housed in bodies that require nutrition and exercise.

Providing a healthy breakfast is an important part of reaching their primary goal.

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