Alexis Skillman, a kindergarten pupil at Brookwood Elementary, carries her breakfast tray. National School Breakfast Week takes place Monday through Friday. The week is set aside to celebrate the School Breakfast Program, which was approved in 1966.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Brittney Harris, 9, gathered with her friends for a hearty green eggs and ham breakfast in honor of Dr. Seuss' 101st birthday Wednesday at Brookwood Elementary School.
The third-grader said she eats breakfast every morning with her classmates Netshani Harrison, 8, Johnnisha Atchison, 8, and second-grader Indira Valez, 8. A good breakfast was especially important Wednesday, Brittney said, because she had to run in P.E. class.
Brittney is one of 2,200 Columbia County pupils who eat breakfast daily as part of the federally funded School Breakfast Program.
"Listen to your mom. She was right all along," Jo Marie Lombard, Columbia County school nutrition coordinator, said about the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
And in honor of the first meal of the day, National School Breakfast Week will take place Monday through Friday.
The week is set aside to celebrate the School Breakfast Program, which was approved as part of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966. The act established the federally funded meal program that provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free breakfasts to children in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions, according to the national School Nutrition Association.
The strongest justification for school nutrition programs, especially breakfast, is their effect on pupils' cognitive performance and educational achievement, Lombard said, adding that good nutrition is linked to learning readiness, academic achievement, decreased discipline and emotional problems.
"Your brain needs to be set in order for you to perform," Lombard said. "(Children who eat breakfast) have improved, especially math and reading scores. The latest studies tell us their attention is better in school. There's a reduced absenteeism and tardy rate because of course if kids are hungry, they know they are going to come to school and get something to eat, so they are less likely to miss school or be tardy.''
Lombard said 18 county schools provide breakfast for pupils, including 14 elementary schools, five middle schools and one high school. Columbia Middle School will begin serving breakfast April 11.
Brookwood Cafeteria Manager Elander Jones said that in her nearly two years at the school, she has seen breakfast-eating pupils increase from fewer than 100 to an average of 140 to 170 pupils daily.
"They eat pretty good," Jones said, adding that her breakfast buffet is one of the few that allow children to make their own choices and load their own plates.
Each participating school offers children a hot entree, including pancakes, French toast sticks or eggs, and a cold entree. Grits and fresh fruit are popular in addition to peanut butter made in most county schools from USDA Commodities roasted peanuts, Lombard said.
Brittney said she knows the importance of breakfast and what happens when she misses it.
"You get hungry," Brittney said.
According to the national Food Research and Action Center in Washington, children who miss breakfast are more likely to be absent, tardy and hyperactive, to show increased errors and to have slower memory recall. Behavioral, emotional and academic problems are more prevalent among hungry children and they tend to have lower math scores and are more likely to repeat a grade, according to the center's research.
"We want kids to get a healthy start," Lombard said. "We're very proud of our breakfast program."
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