National Breakfast Week begins Monday, celebrating the importance of the day’s first meal.
But Valerie Bowers, director of food and nutrition services for the Forsyth County school system, said it’s a message schools work on every day.
“We help them to understand that breakfast means ‘break the fast’ and that in the morning, you need to fuel your body so you can be ready to learn,” Bowers said. “We always are trying to encourage them to eat breakfast because they always need … to get a healthy start on the day.”
With testing on the horizon, officials say it’s the ideal time to get students used to breakfast, whether they eat it at home or school.
“Especially when they’re taking tests, they need to make sure they’ve had a good breakfast and are ready for what the day’s going to bring them” Bowers said. “By setting an example, we let them know what things are good for breakfast.”
National Breakfast Week, which has been celebrated since 1989, raises awareness of the link between eating a nutritious breakfast and academic achievement, as well as healthy lifestyles. Conducted through the Georgia School Nutrition Association, the program runs in conjunction with National Nutrition Month.
Students are encouraged to eat a whole grain food item, low-fat protein, piece of fruit and serving of milk. Bowers said students who eat breakfast at school receive all four components.
“All of our bread products are whole grain … we have muffin tops and we serve those once a week,” she said. “It’s a way of letting the kids know they can have the things they enjoy eating and it’s still good for them.”
On average, about 30 percent of students eat breakfast at their school cafeteria.
That percentage declines at the high school level, particularly at Lambert, where just 7 percent of students eat school breakfast.
Elementary school students are more likely to eat breakfast in their cafeteria. Cumming Elementary has the highest percentage of cafeteria food eaters at nearly 52 percent.
Over at Whitlow Elementary School, it’s about 35 percent, but that number would be lower without teacher participation.
“At Whitlow, the teachers will have the students come to the classroom and they drop off their books then go to the cafeteria and come back and eat in the classroom,” Bowers said. “We couldn’t do this without the teachers.”
Students who ride the bus tend to eat breakfast at school because they get there earlier in the morning, Bowers said. Students who take themselves or are driven by parents have a little more time at home in the morning for breakfast.