Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day: Help Kids Succeed in School

There are many factors that can negatively impact a child’s performance in school. Unfortunately, feeling the effects of hunger is an all too common one. Many children do not eat breakfast before coming to school which sets them up to fail during the day. The reasons for a child not eating breakfast are many and varied. Sometimes the child simply does not have enough time in the morning to sit down and eat a full breakfast. Other times there are no available “grab and go” options for them to easily take and eat on the way to school. However, the most common reason we find for children coming to school hungry is there are not enough family resources to provide children with a breakfast each day. When these children then come to school they are already at a disadvantage to be able to learn successfully.

In 1966, the U.S. Congress enacted the School Breakfast program as a pilot program to see if it would have a positive effect on student learning. The success of the program led to it becoming a permanent entitlement program in 1975. Studies by the Food Research and Action Center show that “students who eat breakfast at school . . . perform better on standardized tests than those who skip breakfast-or breakfast at home.” (Food Research and Action Center, 2010) These same studies also say that students who eat breakfast at school are less likely to be overweight and also have better overall nutrition than those students who do not. Additionally, the school breakfasts served must comply with the most current Dietary Guidelines for Americans. (USDA, 2013)

Parents may apply for free, reduced, or paid breakfast at school options for their child. Some children are automatically enrolled as a result of their participation in other federal assistance programs (SNAP, foster care, etc.) Eligibility is as follows:

Free: At or below 130% of the federal poverty level.

Reduced-Price: 130-185% of the federal poverty level and can be charged no more than $0.30 per meal.

Paid: Above 185% of the federal poverty level and will be charged according to a fee set by the school.

Schools are reimbursed by the federal government for each breakfast they “sell”. The amount of money reimbursed is dependent upon the type of breakfast sold. Free breakfasts are reimbursed at a rate of $1.58 per breakfast, Reduced-Price at $1.28 per breakfast, and Paid at $0.28 per breakfast.[1] The organizational flow of the School Breakfast Program is demonstrated below:

Food and Nutritional Service (federal level) --> State Education Agencies (state level) --> School District (local level)

For the Fiscal Year 2012, the School Breakfast Program is estimated to have cost the federal government $3.3 billion dollars.[2] Some argue against the program saying that there are other, less fiscally demanding, ways of getting students breakfast. However, participation in the program has grown steadily since its inception with close to 12.9 million participants reported in FY 2012. Of those 12.9 million, 10.1 million were served at the free or reduced-price rate.[3]

The argument for the continuation, promotion, and expansion of this program is simple. Research proves that students who eat an adequate and nutritionally sound breakfast are more successful than students who do not. Not only successful in academics, but also in their physical and socio-emotional development in the school environment. Perhaps most importantly, every child deserves the right to have at least one decent meal per day, and sadly a school provided breakfast may be the only one many of these children get.

For more information, I encourage you to visit the following websites:

No Kid Hungry     Food Research and Action Center     USDA- School Breakfast Program



[1] (Food Research and Action Center, 2010)  

[2] (USDA, 2013)  

[3] (USDA, 2013)

Works Cited Food Research and Action Center. (2010). School Breakfast Program. Retrieved January 28, 2014, from FRAC Food Research and Action Center:

USDA. (2013, September). School Breakfast Program Fact Sheet. Retrieved January 28, 2014, from USDA: United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services:  




Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and USDAgov

Hannah T

About Hannah T

I am a 2010 graduate with a degree and certification in Elementary Ed., and I have worked with students from birth to junior high. I believe that one of the most important qualities to surviving a teaching career is a sense of humor. I also strongly feel that students are most successful when they are active and hands-on learners. My Mom was a Special Ed. teacher for almost 30 years, and my Dad was an English major, so I enjoy bouncing blog ideas off the two of them. This usually results in an exchange of great stories with my Mom, and a correction in my writing from my Dad. When they're not available, the job falls to my rescue dog, Coozie.

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