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When Kids Get Breakfast at School, the ‘Light Turns On’, Teachers Say

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In a report released yesterday, educators are revealing the effects that hunger and poverty have on kids, and what they see as the solution.

According to the report, 76% of educators say they regularly see students who are struggling with hunger, and attest to the problems that causes. But many see a solution that works: breakfast served as part of the regular school day. For classroom teachers, students who are well-fed are able to focus, function and achieve academic success.

Surveying more than 1,000 school employees nationwide, the Hunger in Our Schools report released today by No Kid Hungry takes an in-depth look at the impact of childhood hunger through the eyes of teachers, principal, guidance counselors, bus drivers and more.

This is the first year we’ve had a free breakfast program for all students,” said Margot Shaver, a first-grade teacher. “Not only are we feeding their physical needs, we’re feeding their emotional needs. The light turns on; they’re able to function in the classroom.”

Last month, news broke that for the first time, more than half of American public school students come from low-income families. School breakfast is a critical resource for these kids, but one that too few of them are taking advantage of. While nearly 21 million students in the United States eat free or reduced-price lunch, only half of them (11.2 million) are getting the school breakfast they also qualify for.

75% of educators whose students eat breakfast in the classroom report that it makes a difference: students are more alert in class, exhibit less disciplinary problems and have better attendance. In addition, breakfast programs can foster a sense of classroom community and lessen the social stigma often faced by children from low-income families.

“We’ve seen this work in school district after school district,” said Billy Shore, founder and CEO of Share Our Strength. “Some of the teachers we know that had reservations now tell us it’s the best thing that’s happened in their classroom.”

Many educators say that traditional school breakfast – served in the cafeteria, early in the morning before the bell rings – isn’t always effective.

“Most of the students that need breakfast the most arrive late, so they miss out on the breakfast program. Current breakfast programs do not work, because they aren’t catering to the population that needs them the most,” said guidance counselor Wintour McNeel.

For the full report, visit HungerInOurSchools.org, and for more information on how breakfast can impact a child’s life, visit NoKidHungry.org/breakfast.

The report is presented by C&S Wholesale Grocers and sponsored by the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation. No Kid Hungry’s ongoing work to increase school breakfast participation is generously supported by national sponsors Citi®, Kellogg Company Fund and Tyson Foods.

About NO KID HUNGRY

No child should go hungry in America, but 1 in 5 kids will face hunger this year. Using proven, practical solutions, No Kid Hungry is ending childhood hunger today by ensuring that kids start the day with a nutritious breakfast and families learn the skills they need to shop and cook on a budget. When we all work together, we can make sure kids get the healthy food they need. No Kid Hungry is a campaign of national anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength. Join us at NoKidHungry.org.

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