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Creatively Expanding School Breakfast in the Midwest

First grader at Reavis Elementary School, a Chicago Public School, eats breakfast in the classroom. (School Breakfast Week, March 2009)

First grader at Reavis Elementary School, a Chicago Public School, eats breakfast in the classroom. (School Breakfast Week, March 2009)

More and more of the nation’s children are starting their school day well-nourished and ready to learn with a nutritious breakfast at school. Studies confirm the importance of breakfast in optimizing children’s learning, attendance and classroom behavior. Drawing a conclusion that our mothers knew all along – that breakfast matters!

From FY 2009 to FY 2010, six Midwestern states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio) committed to increasing their participation in the School Breakfast Program. Thanks to numerous innovative strategies, breakfasts are making it easier for students to acquire the nourishment they need to focus on their education.

In Illinois, “Breakfast in the Classroom” has significantly increased participation, especially in the Chicago Public Schools, where the option is offered at all elementary schools. In November, over 100 members of school communities attended the first Illinois School Breakfast Summit in Bellwood.  Panelists representing school foodservice, industry, government and the Midwest Dairy Council shared information on resources and initiatives at the forum. Governor Pat Quinn even proclaimed November 15-19, 2010 Illinois School Breakfast Week.

Another great effort to promote school breakfasts is taking place in Michigan, where the State Superintendent’s recent “School Breakfast Challenge,” in partnership with United Dairy Industry of Michigan, offered schools incentives to increase participation by implementing breakfast in the classroom or “universal breakfast” programs, where all students eat free of charge.

In Wisconsin, U.S. Senator Herb Kohl has sponsored grants that assist schools with start-up costs for breakfast programs. Not to be outdone, Indiana has implemented a new policy last year that allows breakfast in the classroom to count as instructional time.

Great things are happening on the school breakfast front in the Midwest, they must have been listening to their mothers.

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Students enjoy breakfast in the classroom at MacAuliffe Elementary School in Chicago. MacAuliffe was one of the first Chicago Public Schools to implement breakfast in the classroom.  Note: this photo was taken in April 2008 if anyone needs to know.

Students enjoy breakfast in the classroom at MacAuliffe Elementary School in Chicago. MacAuliffe was one of the first Chicago Public Schools to implement breakfast in the classroom. Note: this photo was taken in April 2008 if anyone needs to know.

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