School Breakfast: An Opportunity for a Healthy Start

The federally subsidized School Breakfast Program began as a pilot project in 1966 and was made permanent in 1975. Students that meet Federal Poverty Level (FPL) requirements are eligible to receive free or reduced-price breakfast, which is typically served in the school cafeteria before instruction begins. The majority of students who qualify for the School Breakfast Program in New York City do not participate. To eliminate the stigma of a segregated location and the difficulty of arriving earlier to school, some schools in New York City have voluntarily implemented a classroom breakfast program to make breakfast more accessible to all students.

A recent survey conducted by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) found that the in-class breakfast program was associated with an additional 21.1% of students eating in 2 or more locations in the morning, leading to increased calorie consumption. NYC DOHMH argues that the small percentage (6.3%) increase in students eating something in the morning does not outweigh the increased calorie intake in three times as many students. Given an overlap of higher rates of obesity and a higher need for federally subsidized school breakfasts in the same neighborhoods, continued efforts are essential in three areas: 1) reduction of food insecurity, 2) improvement of the quality and nutritional value of school breakfasts and 3) increased family education on the school breakfast program and healthier choices for outside of school. It is crucial to ensure that every student has the opportunity for a healthy start to his or her school day.

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