Over 10 million more breakfasts were served to Virginia students this school year compared to the same time three years ago. That’s a big deal. But we have the opportunity to connect even more students with school breakfast. One in six children in Virginia live in families that struggle with hunger. According to a recent No Kid Hungry Virginia poll, 51 percent of voters know a family that has experienced hunger. Childhood hunger needs to be addressed.
In the U.S., hunger can mean different things. Due to financial burdens, some families struggle to buy food, while other homes cut portion sizes to make meals stretch. Research shows that hunger has long-term ramifications on children, including lower test scores, weaker attendance rates, and a higher risk of hospitalizations and chronic diseases.
That’s why making sure Virginia kids have access to school meals is so important.
In the traditional school breakfast delivery model, students eat breakfast in the cafeteria before school begins. But that’s the problem: Only half of Virginia kids who depend on school lunch start their days with school breakfast. Social stigmas and the practical matter of tight bus schedules are just some of the barriers that prevent students from accessing the most important meal of the day.
Supported by Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Virginia campaign and partners, alternatives like Breakfast After the Bell increase access to school breakfast by bringing breakfast out of the cafeteria and making it a part of the school day. Through a variety of delivery models, Breakfast After the Bell makes eating breakfast convenient and accessible for all students.
We know Breakfast After the Bell works. Studies show that academic achievement among students who eat school breakfast tends to improve, especially in vocabulary, math, and on standardized tests.
Not only does it help student performance, but school administrators and teachers see the value in Breakfast After the Bell, too.
“Before starting Breakfast in the Classroom, my teachers were concerned about lost instructional time due to students arriving late to class,” said Principal Sonya Shaw at Miles Jones Elementary in the City of Richmond. “As it turns out, after moving Breakfast in the Classroom, teachers gained more instructional time with students! The students are concentrating, they are attentive, they are focused and they are engaging. And they are not hungry. And that is the most wonderful thing ever for our school.”
Virginia has made huge strides in launching breakfast programs over the past several years. The Commonwealth was one of the top 10 states with the biggest growth in breakfast programs, according to recent data from the Food Research & Action Center.
Partnerships with the First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe, who has made ending childhood hunger in Virginia a top priority, have helped fuel that success. No Kid Hungry Virginia is currently working with Mrs. McAuliffe to champion the Virginia Breakfast Challenge, a campaign to increase breakfast efforts among Virginia schools. From October 1 through December 31, schools across the Commonwealth are competing for prizes and recognition by increasing participation in their school breakfast programs.
We need more awareness about the issue of childhood hunger, and more schools offering the Breakfast After the Bell program. You can help and get involved by signing No Kid Hungry Virginia’s pledge to end childhood hunger, here.
This article was written by No Kid Hungry Virginia.