|For Immediate Release|
|Wednesday, March 6, 2013|
|Contact:||JC Considine 781-338-3112|
Massachusetts School Breakfast Challenge Aims to Help Fight Childhood Hunger and Add Healthier Meal Options for Students
CAMBRIDGE - The Patrick-Murray Administration today celebrated National School Breakfast Week by launching the Massachusetts School Breakfast Challenge to encourage all public schools statewide to increase student participation in the School Breakfast Program and add more nutritious options for students.
Students who eat breakfast every day are better prepared to learn. But according to the No Kid Hungry campaign, 60 percent of K-8 teachers across the United States say they regularly have children in their classrooms come to school hungry. Further exasperating the problem in Massachusetts, 57 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch do not eat school breakfast on a given day - which according to the Food Research and Action Center places the Commonwealth 42nd among states in low-income student school breakfast participation.
In response, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), the Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), the New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC), the School Nutrition Association of Massachusetts, and Project Bread have come together to challenge districts statewide to increase and sustain student participation in the School Breakfast Program by 35 percent or more over the next two years and add more nutritious options for students. The Challenge partners held a kick-off event today at the Morse School in Cambridge.
"Our students need breakfast to be well prepared to grow and learn," said Governor Deval Patrick. "No child should go to school hungry. By partnering with our schools we are alleviating the hunger that affects too many of our children, and giving them an opportunity to reach their full potential."
"Students who eat breakfast every day are able to focus better, behave better, and perform better in the classroom," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "Schools that introduce healthier options and implement alternative delivery methods - like Grab-n-Go, Breakfast in the Classroom, and Breakfast after the Bell - see increased student participation in breakfast programs."
"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and a vital tool in helping young people learn," said Agricultural Resources Commissioner Gregory Watson. "When we provide it for all our students, we are setting them up for a more productive and healthier life."
The School Breakfast Challenge partners have created a website, located at http://www.maschoolbreakfast.org, to help schools focus on breakfast and participate in this challenge. The website provides tools and resources, including funding opportunities, to assist schools in starting or expanding breakfast programs. ESE and NEDFC will also provide grants to schools to help them implement an innovative school breakfast delivery system, increase student participation, and meet the challenge.
ESE's Child Nutrition Outreach Program, which Project Bread administers, is helping schools to increase student participation in the School Breakfast Program and to add more nutritious foods. The program's website, located at http://meals4kids.org/, provides a wide variety of free resources for schools. MDAR is supporting the initiative by increasing locally grown produce that is available in Massachusetts schools. NEDFC is also partnering with the National Football League for its Fuel Up to Play 60 program that promotes physical activity and school breakfast. Former New England Patriot Jermaine Wiggins from East Boston attended today's kick-off event to talk with Morse students about the importance of eating a healthy breakfast every day.
Breakfast can be offered in any school, and is available in many districts that are not high need. Public schools are required to provide breakfast if at least 40 percent of students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, and those schools receive state support for their breakfast programs. The state also provides a subsidy, above the U.S. Department of Agriculture reimbursement, to schools where 60 percent or more of students qualify for free or reduced price lunch.
Beginning in September 2013, all schools must adopt additional federal meal pattern standards that incorporate healthier options by increasing whole grains and fruits and vegetables.
Districts that meet and sustain a 35 percent increase in breakfast participation by December 2014 will be eligible for Massachusetts School Breakfast awards. For more information, go to http://www.maschoolbreakfast.org/uploads/BkfstFAQs_js.pdf.