Nutritionists have long been proponents of the benefits of eating breakfast. But many school-age children skip this all-important meal, citing time-constraints and convenience. Understanding the importance of the morning meal, many schools offer breakfast for all students, including those who are unable to pay.
Many kids, hoping to avoid being stigmatized, avoid breakfast at school, thus defeating the purpose of the free-breakfast program. However, one middle school in State College, PA, has instituted a program designed to help all students, making it easier for them to avail themselves of a nutritious start to their day.
The Mount Nittany Middle School has set up a 'grab-and-go' food cart outside the principal's office. The cart is stocked with bagels, muffins, cold cereals, and fresh fruits, and students can take whatever they way, bag it, and go to their classroom. This program is currently serving more then 13 percent of the students in the school.
At Mt. Nittany, the program has replaced the traditional school breakfast, which is no longer being served at the school. For years, the perception that only poor kids ate breakfast at school has caused children to avoid being seen in school cafeterias before class. Nicole Woo, of the Food Research and Action Center in Washington, D.C. stated recently that, 'We've heard in focus groups from low-income moms who say that their children don't want to be seen in the cafeteria in the morning, that they'd rather go hungry.'
Mt. Nittany ran a six-week trial of the breakfast cart program in 2002 and found that, while only 4 percent of the students ate breakfast at the school before the program, the number of students utilizing the food cart rose to 13 percent of the population.
The success of this program is due not only to the participation underprivileged students, but also to those who find that they have no time to eat at home. With parents and students rushing off to school and work, the family breakfast has become a thing of the past. Now that this alternative solution has proven successful, it's only a matter of time before it is implemented in other school districts across the country.