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Nuts & Bolts

May 9, 2013

The connection between breakfast and academic achievement

Most people know it's hard for children to pay attention in school without eating breakfast. But now a team of researchers has found out why that is.

Researchers from Ohio State University took brain scans of students and found those who ate a nutritious breakfast and were physically active every day achieved higher test scores and had more focus in class.

"Hungry kids can't learn and we've known that for a long time," said Ohio State Professor Bob Murray, M.D. "But now we know why they are not learning and what areas of the brain are really hindering that."

The skippers

According to statistics, 62 percent of teenagers skip breakfast once a week.

And based on figures released by The Wellness Impact: Enhancing Academic Success Through Healthy School Environments, only 38 percent of teens eat breakfast every day.

Unfortunately, many schools don't offer breakfast because of budgetary cutbacks, but Duke Storen, director of Partner Impact at Share Our Strength says it's still the school's responsibility to provide certain meals.

Storen believes schools providing breakfast not only help kids in the classroom, but it will help them in adulthood as well.

"Schools play a critical role in ending childhood hunger by connecting kids with healthy meals that do much more than provide essential nutrition. They improve a student's ability to focus and thrive in the classroom," said Storen.

"For example, research shows that the seemingly simple act of ensuring that children get school breakfast offers the potential for students to experience greater academic achievement, increased job readiness and ultimately more economic prosperity for our nation. Stronger, better nourished kids mean a stronger America," he said.

The evidence

Share Our Strength revealed these statistics:

  • Kids who regularly ate breakfast attended school 1.5 more days than kids who didn't. And children who ate breakfast every morning scored 17.5 percent higher than children who didn't.
  • In a recent case study, researchers learned there are about 81,000 low-income elementary and middle school students in Maryland who receive lunch at school -- but not breakfast.
  • According to estimates, if Maryland schools gave breakfast to 70 percent of these kids, 56,000 additional students could achieve math proficiency and 14,000 more students would graduate high school. And schools would see 84,890 fewer absences among students as well.

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