Northwest Colorado Food Coalition: School breakfast makes difference
It’s no surprise that hungry kids struggle in school. Studies show that starting the day off right with a healthy breakfast at school correlates with a boost in memory, comprehension and test performance. Kids who eat school breakfast also miss fewer days of school, spend less time in the nurse’s office and have fewer behavior problems in the classroom.
School breakfast is particularly important for low income students in food insecure households. According to the 2018 Routt County Collective Impact Task Force Report, the number of people living in poverty in Steamboat Springs has doubled, and in South Routt has tripled between 2009 and 2016.
School breakfast programs also provide a second chance for students who’d rather sleep a few minutes longer or aren’t hungry when they first wake up in the morning, the most common reasons secondary students say they don’t eat breakfast before they come to school.
Routt County schools understand these needs and have responded by offering students the opportunity to eat breakfast after they arrive at school in the morning.
South Routt School District foodservice staff prepares a fresh pot of oatmeal with toppings and a variety of fruit each morning for secondary students. Breakfast is available, free of charge, from before school begins until mid-morning. The program has been popular since its inception in spring 2017, serving 25 to 40 students daily. South Routt Elementary School has added Breakfast on the Playground this fall, offering a selection of items such as granola bars, fruits and cheese to students who may have missed breakfast at home. According to the South Routt School District Director of Foodservices Susan Hart, “It is a top priority for us that kids are not going hungry at school.”
Hayden School District began offering elementary school students a daily free breakfast of oatmeal and fruit last year and has expanded the program to secondary students this fall. The Steamboat School District elementary schools participate in the National School Breakfast Program, offering a complete breakfast for $2.50. Students who qualify receive breakfast for free or reduced prices. Middle school students can access breakfast at Strawberry Park Elementary School. Max Huppert, director of nutrition for Steamboat Springs School District, reports about 65 students receive the complete breakfast daily. The Steamboat Springs High School daily schedule includes a 10-minute, mid-morning break between classes, when the foodservice station offers a la carte snacks for student purchase.
Kudos to Routt County school leaders for recognizing the needs of students and families and responding with breakfast programs that enable kids to report to their classrooms each day fueled up and ready to learn.
Kristi Brown has lived in Steamboat Springs for 18 years and works as the health and wellness coordinator for Hayden and South Routt school districts. Both districts have been recognized as Colorado Healthy Schools Champions each of the past three years. Brown is a member of the Northwest Colorado Food Coalition, Routt County Youth Services Coalition and Communities that Care Coalition.
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