Adequate access to healthy food is central to childhood obesity prevention. School breakfast has emerged as a major player in that discussion, and a nationwide movement is underway to improve it, as studies suggest that breakfast consumption is associated with daily caloric intake and has a positive effect on behavior and academic performance.
According to The State of Family Nutrition and Physical Activity Report, the meal children skip most often is breakfast. This report found that 42% of white and Hispanic children and 59% of African American children regularly skip breakfast. Despite the availability of breakfast in schools, only 22% of students take advantage of the National School Breakfast Program. However, since most schools that serve lunch now also offer breakfast, there is exciting potential to increase participation, nutritional value, and financial sustainability of school breakfast.
To help coordinate breakfast leadership, the ChildObesity180 breakfast team is designing a National School Breakfast Campaign. Twenty years of advocacy has set the stage for this effort. Still in its infancy, the campaign will be constructed by national leaders in school breakfast operations, research, policy, and industry.
While the architecture for the concept is still being developed, the “campaign” concept is purposeful. It illustrates the urgency, scale, and integration with which we are approaching our charge: to unite national leaders around a mission to equip every U.S. school district to build a successful breakfast program. Success is defined by three characteristics: exceptional nutrition, high participation, and financial sustainability.
Increasing the availability of healthy school breakfast across the country requires a mastery of several key factors, including demographics, supply chain economics, communications, school leadership, and USDA nutrition standards. Therefore, members of the ChildObesity180 breakfast team spent three weeks visiting school districts across the country to collect data and insights to inform the campaign. Students, parents, teachers, custodial staff, cafeteria managers, school nurses, principals, and food service directors provided valuable insights on their breakfast programs. Armed with this data, we feel confident that our efforts to accelerate impact align with realities on the ground.