It has come to my attention as of late that some people don’t like the idea of school’s offering a free breakfast program. The argument I heard? Kid’s who have a family that isn’t financially ‘needy’ will take advantage of the free food. My first thought when I heard this? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? There are so many negative things happening in the world and someone chooses to focus on a kid who is getting an extra apple or a yogurt? I beg of the people who use this argument to find a better topic to use your opinionated voice for.
I worked for years as an emotional behavioural specialist and I can tell you from experience that kids that are well-fed show less inappropriate behaviours in school. Think about it. When we’re hungry, what happens? We get irritable, grumpy, emotional, and unfocused. And we’re adults! So when a child is hungry they have difficult sitting in class, they get easily frustrated at their work, and they scream at their friends for not sharing a toy. How can we prevent that first thing in the morning? Giving the kids breakfast.
“A healthy breakfast helps children have healthy bodies, and a healthy body grows a healthy brain!”
From a developmental and academic point of view, a healthy breakfast helps children have healthy bodies, and a healthy body grows a healthy brain! These healthy brains, that are able to sit in class and focus, are able to learn in school and are better able demonstrate that learning.
And if that’s not enough positive results for you, it also contributes to the child’s social understanding of school. By offering the kids a meal, especially when they might not get one anywhere else, we are sending the message that school is a safe place where people who care for you will take care of you. When children have a positive sense of community in their school, they are more likely to behave positively, be happier to come each day, and have good relationships with their teachers and classmates.
Interested in starting a breakfast program at your school? Here’s what I know about the program I was involved in last year:
- A local company donated $3000 and from that we were able to run the breakfast program all year for a school of 200 children.
- We supplied healthy foods such as fruit, yogurt cups, muffin bars, cheese slices, granola bars, and juice.
- The breakfast program ran from when the school doors opened at 8:15 a.m. until the second bell (which meant kids had to have their bums in their seats) at 8:35 a.m.
- It was a “grab-and-go” system.
- It took 5 minutes to set up the program and 5 minutes to take it down.
- Our program was run by school staff who each took a shift (but parent volunteers or responsible students could easily run it). The children helped themselves to the food and staff supervised to make sure the kids took appropriate amounts.
- We were able to prevent food waste by taking the milk from the cafeteria that would expire over the weekends or holidays and adding it to our breakfast buffet.
- Groceries were purchased in bulk by a staff member.
In my ideal world, every school would have a free breakfast program. I don’t have the ability to make that happen, but I will encourage every school I ever work with to start one…even if that means I have to run it myself!
Oh, that “rich” kid I mentioned at the start? The one who some people think shouldn’t get access to the program because his/her parents can afford food at home? That kid taking that apple or yogurt cup just gave the message to every other kid in the school that using the breakfast program is normal. He/she sent a message to the kids who have no food in the house that they won’t stand out and be labelled as ‘poor’ by going up and grabbing a muffin bar. So thank you to that “rich” kid.