For children, a critical meal

For the Monitor

Patricia Cantor and Maureen Salo: NH Kids Count Board Members

Sunday, March 16, 2014

As early childhood educators, we want to encourage one step that will help the young children in New Hampshire to thrive.

According to the 2013 Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Report, New Hampshire is regarded as an outstanding state in which to live and raise a family. But despite this overall excellence, New Hampshire ranks 50th among states for the past two years in the use of the school breakfast program.

How important is breakfast? We have seen firsthand what the research shows: that breakfast can help improve children’s classroom performance, attendance and mental and physical health. New Hampshire Kids Count and its partners, the New England Dairy and Food Council, the state Department of Education and the School Nutrition Association of New Hampshire, have challenged New Hampshire’s schools to improve their student participation rate by 25 percent over the next two years. In October 2013, this partnership launched the New Hampshire School Breakfast Challenge and a website, nhschoolbreakfast.org, which helps schools with resources, personalized assistance and funding opportunities. In order for the challenge to be successful, both schools and students have to acquire new habits. Students must commit to eating breakfast every school day. Schools must pilot innovative breakfast delivery models and menu options to redefine how breakfast is served in school.

New Hampshire’s poor national school breakfast rank is an opportunity for improvement. Schools can champion children by ensuring every student begins the day nourished and ready to learn. We urge schools to evaluate their breakfast programs and, if needed, formulate a plan to increase student participation. New Hampshire Kids Count and our partners are ready to assist schools with developing more productive classrooms — beginning with breakfast.