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Nutrition and learning collide in school experiment

By Jim Conrad, jconrad@wcyb.com
Published On: Jan 30 2013 03:40:22 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 23 2013 03:57:50 PM CST

You've heard it all your life: "breakfast is the most important meal of the day." But the fact is not all of us have that good breakfast before we start our day.

KINGSPORT, Tenn. -

You've heard it all your life: "breakfast is the most important meal of the day." But the fact is not all of us have that good breakfast before we start our day.

For young students, having a good breakfast can even affect their learning capacity. That's why one area school system has started a pilot program to offer free breakfast.

Lincoln Elementary students are recharging their learning batteries every day in the lunch room, but a lot of them are coming to school without a good breakfast to start their day. "We know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and we also know from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that half of our students don't eat breakfast at home. We want to encourage them to eat to perform well in the classroom," says Jennifer Burleson, the director of school nutrition services.

To back it up, the school system is offering free breakfast that normally costs seven dollars for free at three schools. They will then measure and evaluate tardiness, behavior issues and trips to the school nurse.

Research also shows that those students who have a good breakfast do better on tests and their academics. "We're not measuring testing. We're measuring for some tardiness issues, some behavior issues in students when they come to school hungry and also going to look at nurse clinic referrals," Burleson said.

And so far so good, at least as far as those students participating in the 60-day trial. "I checked some numbers this morning and we are 14 or 15 percent up in two schools, and seven percent up in another in terms of the amount of breakfast that's consumed everyday," Burleson said.

Next it will be whether that consumption in the cafeteria is transferred to the classroom.