Good breakfast key to success

By Dennis Pittman, Senior Director of Hunger Relief at Smithfield Foods

Hunger affects children in every community in the United States. Right here in the Commonwealth, one in seven kids are from families who struggle with hunger. This takes a profound toll on their health, happiness and ability to be successful at school.

School breakfast can help change that. That is why this week, March 5 through 9, we are partnering with No Kid Hungry Virginia campaign to celebrate National School Breakfast Week. This event is an annual weeklong celebration of the school breakfast program, with the goals of not only raising awareness of the program, but also highlighting the significant impact school breakfast has on a student's ability to succeed. 

Across the Commonwealth, we have already made great strides in ensuring that Virginia kids have access to the nutritious fuel they need to grow up healthy, strong and ready to learn. Over 10 million more breakfasts were served to Virginia students last school year compared to the same time four years ago. 

That's a big deal, but we have the opportunity to connect even more students with school breakfast. 

We know school breakfast works. Studies show that academic achievement among students who eat school breakfast tends to improve, especially in vocabulary and math an on standardized tests. 

Unfortunately, however, traditional breakfast methods like serving it in the cafeteria before school begins means not all children who need the meal are accessing it. In fact, only half of Virginia kids who depend on school lunch start their days with school breakfast. Social stigmas and the practical matter of tight bus schedules are just some of the barriers that prevent students from accessing the most important meal of the day. 

Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry Virginia campaign, along with partners such as the Smithfield Foundation, are working with schools to identify and implement alternative methods to serve breakfast after the official start of the school day. This increases access to school breakfast by bringing the meal out of the cafeteria and making it a normal part of the school day. Through a variety of delivery models, "Breakfast After the Bell" makes eating breakfast convenient and accessible for all students.

Originally published in the Smithfield Times