May 22, 2017

From Annie Marges, Oregon Department of Education, Child Nutrition Specialist, Direct Certification Coordinator

Hunger Persists in Oregon

Oregon continues to be one of a handful of states in which hunger persists, with one in six Oregonians experiencing food insecurity. Furthermore, studies demonstrate that hunger is a public health concern with long-term consequences that reach far beyond the classroom. With this in mind, Child Nutrition Programs have worked with the State Legislature to provide students with additional opportunities to eat breakfast and with partners around the state who work with schools and districts to provide the resources they need to feed more students. For many students, the only reliable meal they have is at school.

Traditionally speaking, schools serve breakfast up to an hour before the first bell. In this structure, the students who participate in school breakfast are those who are already there or those who arrive early for the purpose of eating. In both cases, however, students who may need breakfast the most miss out and often have to wait until lunch, at least three hours later, to eat their first meal of the day.

Alternative Breakfast Service Models

Alternative Breakfast Service Models provide additional opportunities for students to eat in the morning, after school starts. Whether presented as Breakfast in the Classroom, Second Chance Breakfast, or Grab-and-Go, these strategies increase participation in school breakfast across income levels, provide the vital nutrition that growing minds need, and decrease the stigma of eating school meals (or being perceived as a “free lunch” kid). When coupled with breakfast at no cost for all students (under the Community Eligibility Provision or Provision 2), these strategies are strengthened, resulting in improved student attendance, focus, and behavior.

What we know about hunger in students:

  • Families experiencing food insecurity–a social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food–have children who are more likely to be hungry.
  • Children experiencing hunger are more likely to be absent and tardy, in addition to having behavioral and attention problems.
  • Teenagers experiencing hunger are more likely to have been suspended from school and have difficulty getting along with others.
  • Students who are undernourished tend to experience disengagement in class, lack of focus, and poor cognitive function.

What we know about the effects of feeding students:

  • Student participation in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) School Breakfast Program (SBP) is associated with increased academic grades and standardized test scores, reduced absenteeism, and improved cognitive performance (e.g., memory). Centers for Disease Control Health and Academic Achievement
  • In a cross-sectional study of children in Philadelphia and Baltimore, students who had increased participation in school breakfast demonstrated measurable improvement in punctuality, attendance, and math scores. Additionally, students experienced decreased anxiety and hyperactivity. JAMA Pediatrics
  • In addition to the numerous benefits for students, school staff see improvements as well: reduced nurse’s office visits, increased standardized test scores, higher grades and positive learning environments. No Kid Hungry, Share Our Strength
  • “Kids who eat breakfast at school do better in math, science and reading. When kids thrive in school, everyone is better off.” Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon

What schools in Oregon tell us after adding an alternative breakfast service model:

  • After adding Second Chance Breakfast, breakfast participation went from 17% to 41% and school nurses saw far fewer students in the morning complaining of headaches and teachers reported an improvement in student focus. (Woodburn School District)
  • Breakfast After the Bell increased the number of meals served from 4,000 to over 10,000 in a year. (St. Helens School District)
  • “We serve breakfast to 400 students in 10 minutes!” (Newberg School District)

Links to Resources for Implementation and Further Research

Oregon Department of Education Child Nutrition Programs, (2015). Breakfast in the Classroom: A How-To Manual for Schools

Adolphus, Lawton and Dye, (2013). Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. The effects of breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents. 

Baildon, Katherine, (2013). Breakfast and the Brain: How Eating Breakfast Impacts School Performance