The U.S. Department of Agriculture is celebrating 50 years of the school breakfast program, a nutrition initiative that now affects more than 14 million students across the country.
Over the course of the Obama administration, participation in school breakfast has increased by 27 percent, and more than 90,000 schools participated in the program in the last year alone.
Studies have shown that students with access to school breakfast are likely to maintain a healthier weight than their peers, and were able to establish healthy eating habits for later in life. The program is also effective at curbing tardiness and suspensions, and leads to better attentiveness and behavior in school.
Not surprisingly, students who get an early morning meal also did better on standardized tests than students asked to perform on an empty stomach. According to USDA data, breakfast is especially important for teenagers, who are less likely to eat breakfast than other age groups, as well as low-income students, who may not have the resources at home to eat breakfast.
To celebrate the program’s 50th anniversary, the USDA is announcing an additional $6.8 million in grants to help schools maintain a healthy standard of nutrition for students. Approved grants will be used to train foodservice personnel and provide schools with a greater standard of nutrition education.
“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the school breakfast program, we reflect on the great strides the program has made in strengthening the health and nutrition of children in America,” said agriculture undersecretary Kevin Concannon. “The program allows millions of students to start their day with a well-balanced breakfast, which, in turn, is linked to better performance in the classroom, better attendance, and better health.”