National School Breakfast Week

As National School Breakfast Week kicks off on March 7, 2022, schools are ready to “Take Off with School Breakfast,” as this year’s theme says, and promote the importance of a nutritious breakfast that includes whole grains, fruits (or vegetables), and milk. With one in six children living in food-insecure households, the National School Breakfast Program addresses childhood hunger by serving breakfast each school day to 14.7 million children, 85% of whom qualify for free or reduced-price meals (1, 2). It is also important to celebrate that all students can enjoy breakfast at no cost till the end of June 2022, which helps to end school food stigma, eliminate meal debt, and promote student health (3).

Studies indicate that children who eat school breakfast are more likely to (4):

  • Perform better on standardized tests
  • Have better concentration and memory
  • Consume a diet that includes important vitamins and minerals
  • Build healthy eating habits for life.

Plus, students who eat breakfast at school are less likely to be absent, late, or see the school nurse.

Any parent knows that weekday mornings can be hectic. So, there’s no better way to start off the day than having children enjoy breakfast at school, ensuring they are energized and ready to learn!

 

School Nutrition Heroes

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, school nutrition directors (a.k.a. heroes!) worked their magic overnight to provide take-home meals and grab-and-go meals, plus meals in the classroom and in the lunchroom. Their creativity is endless, and this year was no exception. In honor of National School Breakfast Week (March 7 to 11), school nutrition directors have found fun and creative new ways to nourish children. One of these is the Hot Chocolate Milk program, which provides a delicious and nutritious option for students to enjoy at school. With schools already offering milk as an option for students at meals, warming up chocolate milk is easy and provides a fun option for students to enjoy as their milk choice. This tasty drink is creatively offered as a grab-and-go option, through in-classroom delivery, in the cafeteria, and even as a take-home option. Many schools offer a toppings bar so students can spice up their drinks with cocoa powder, crushed peppermint, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon, just to name a few. It’s a delicious culinary creation that students get to make.

Benefits of the Hot Chocolate Milk program include:

  • Students enjoying a tasty menu option while consuming essential nutrients: 13 to be exact!
  • Schools increasing breakfast participation: Pilot schools increased daily breakfast participation by more than 10 percent. Participation not only ensures students are nourished and ready to learn, but also supports the school meals program.
  • Generates excitement for nutritious milk and school meals: a win-win!

Just one serving of milk provides 13 essential nutrients: protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin D, riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5) and cobalamin (B12), iodine, potassium, selenium, and zinc. Encouraging milk consumption during the prime developmental years can help children build strong bones and teeth, supports tissue growth, and helps protect healthy cells from damage (5). Furthermore, these essential nutrients help maintain a healthy immune system and contribute to normal growth and development (5). There is nourishment in every cup!

 

School Success Stories

As schools implement the Hot Chocolate Milk Program, they are measuring success and seeing a positive impact. Being able to provide students with a fun, nutritious menu option is helping school nutrition programs through expanded meal participation and connections with students. Throughout National School Breakfast Week, schools celebrating by expanding the Hot Chocolate Milk program, allowing more students to choose this tasty option.

 

Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District, New York

Franklin Middle School

School Nutrition Director: Kim Roll

Before the Hot Chocolate Milk Program, Franklin Middle School was serving only about 85 students breakfast each day. After the program was introduced, nearly 225 students enjoyed breakfast each school day. What a huge success! The cafeteria monitors mentioned how nice it was to see more students and could not believe how many smiling faces they saw leave the cafeteria that morning. With the success at Franklin Middle School, the Hot Chocolate Milk Program is expanding to Hoover Middle School as well as to Kenmore East and Kenmore West High Schools throughout this month (March 2022). Many more students will get to enjoy this tasty breakfast option!

 

Pennridge School District, Pennsylvania

School Nutrition Director: Gina Giarratana

Students throughout the Pennridge School District are loving the Hot Chocolate Milk as a breakfast option. Each day breakfast participation increases as students have the option to select Hot Chocolate Milk. Feedback has been positive as students stated “This is the best school ever!,” “This is free with my breakfast?!,” and “This is so awesome!” It’s great to hear students enjoying the Hot Chocolate Milk and breakfast at school.

 

Plainfield Public School District, New Jersey

School Nutrition Director: Keisha Mack

Plainfield Public School District kicked off “Sweater Weather” season featuring Hot Chocolate Milk on the school breakfast menu. Hot Chocolate Milk has been quite the buzz among students and staff! The district used its Twitter and Facebook pages to promote the nutritious new menu item. To ensure that students took notice, the school used posters and countertop signs, and added fun toppings to attract attention to the Hot Chocolate Milk station. Students can create their own delicious beverage just how they like it. Meal participation increases on average by 23% when Hot Chocolate Milk is served on the menu. The Hot Chocolate Milk program continues to expand throughout the district and will be debuted in two additional middle schools this month (March 2022).

 

Warrior Run School District, Pennsylvania

School Nutrition Director: Jonathan Hall

In the Warrior Run School District, students have been enjoying Hot Chocolate Milk. Breakfast participation has almost doubled each school day and students are absolutely loving the program! This fun menu option has increased breakfast consumption.

So, Let’s Raise a Glass!

Students love the fun option of Hot Chocolate Milk and it’s a great way to ensure many essential nutrients are consumed for proper development and growth. School breakfast is key to addressing food insecurity and school nutrition professionals continue to be essential in providing nutritious meals to students. So, let’s raise a glass of Hot Chocolate Milk to school nutrition professionals as they ensure millions of students are nourished and ready to learn each and every school day. Cheers!

 

References

  1. https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/2019-05/2017-map-the-meal-gap-child-food-insecurity_0.pdf
  2. https://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/child-nutrition-tables
  3. https://frac.org/blog/top-10-reasons-to-support-free-healthy-school-meals-for-all
  4. https://frac.org/programs/school-breakfast-program/benefits-school-breakfast
  5. https://www.americandairy.com/dairy-diary/13-essential-nutrients-in-milk/