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'got breakfast?'

'got breakfast?'

Former senators George McGovern and Bob Dole unveil the "got breakfast?" poster. (Far above) Partners in the campaign (bottom-l. to r.): Camellia Patey, Patricia Nicklin, Gary Davis, McGovern and Max Finberg.

Playing off the celebrity status of the 'got milk?' campaign, the Federal Government, as well as various groups from the non-profit and private sectors, have joined together in an effort to expand access to School Breakfast Programs.

"In order to have a breakfast program function well for a district, regardless of size or location, there must be a cooperative focus between administration, parents, teachers, school foodservice directors and students," says School Nutrition Association President, Ruth Jonen, director of food services, Township HSD 211, Palatine, IL. "This campaign will help to centralize the focus."

'got breakfast?' was launched on heels of the Food Research and Action Center's (FRAC) School Breakfast Scorecard: 2005, a new report from the non-profit group, which is funded by a broad consortium of church, social welfare, and business groups. It features compelling state-by-state statistics on breakfast in schools.

The FRAC report found that for every 100 low-income children eating free or reduced price school lunch fewer than half also participate in a breakfast program.

"If we were able to get the states with the lowest participation up to the same level as the states with the highest participation, we would be feeding 1.2 million more children a year," says Jim Weill, president of FRAC.

Breakfast Breaks
"Breakfast Breaks" (boxed grab-and-go breakfast meals) are touted as a key part of the campaign, which promotes the idea that such meals that can be provided to students in a variety of venues and ways.

"There are two significant barriers facing the School Breakfast Program," says Jonen. "The first is time vs. transportation; the second is labor. The Breakfast Breaks concept lends itself as a convenient and effective prototype for school foodservice directors everywhere to build upon."

The packs include kid-friendly, recognizable breakfast brands and products—chosen by the individual districts—and can be served in a variety of convenient ways in cafeterias, from kiosks, in the classroom and even right off the bus.

"The labor issue is another concern for districts. But now, when a child comes into the classroom, he or she is able to pick up breakfast from a cart or a kiosk and eat it while getting settled, there is little to no extra labor involved," says Jonen. "The bottom line is that too many districts say breakfast programs 'won't work' because of labor or cost or time constraints. These are the barriers the campaign addresses."

The campaign is also being supported by suppliers of preboxed meals, which are often available in bulk for about $1 each. Because federal and state reimbursement schedules offer schools between $1.40 and $1.60 for each subsidized breakfast meal, there can be a financial incentive for districts to use boxed meal strategies, with their lower additional labor costs, in breakfast programs.

"At a time when schools are struggling [to balance their financials], having school breakfast programs funded this way is as close as a magic wand as it gets in school foodservice," says Weill.

Numerous studies have shown that a balanced breakfast can lower rates of absence and tardiness, reduce discipline problems and school nurse visits, improve test scores and learning environment, as well as help reduce childhood obesity.

"We have children coming to school hungry and we must respond to that problem. It is very much a question of commitment on the part of the school district," says Jonen. "The message of this program is, 'Let's not look at why we can't serve a school breakfast program, let's look at how we can.'"

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State by State Performance

While the national ratio was 44%, thirteen states served school breakfast to at least half of all low-income children eating school lunch, while six states served school breakfast to fewer than one in three low-income children.

Oregon 55.9
West Virginia 55.7
Kentucky 55.4
Oklahoma 54.7
Mississippi 54.5
South Carolina 54.1
Texas 53.8
New Mexico 53.2
Vermont 53.2
Arkansas 53.0
Georgia 52.8
Louisiana 51.2
North Carolina 50.5
Connecticut 33.0
New Hampshire 32.7
Alaska 32.0
Utah 31.0
Illinois 28.4
Wisconsin 26.5

Source: Food Research and Action Center, 2005 School Breakfast Scorecard

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