School Breakfast Week: “Take Time for School Breakfast”

By Danielle Aloia, Special Projects Librarian

Starting the day with a hearty, healthy breakfast allows your body to maintain the physical and mental agility needed to function without fatigue during the course of the day. Today, the Food Research and Action Center recognizes that “school breakfast participation is linked with increased food security, improved health outcomes, and numerous educational benefits, particularly for low-income children.”1

In 1790, Germany began the first school feeding program on record. In the early 1900s, the U.K. and several other European countries passed bills to enact school lunch programs. The following table shows the nutrition requirements for school children in Switzerland, Germany, and England circa 1900:2

Recommended nutritional requirements.2 Click to enlarge.

Recommended nutritional requirements.2 Click to enlarge.

The U.S. was late to follow, not passing legislation for a school lunch program until the 1940s. However, U.S. researchers had previously looked at the nutrition status of school aged children. In 1906, a Dr. Lechstecker in New York City examined 10,707 children and found that 439 had no breakfast and 998 had just coffee or coffee and bread. In 1908, of 10,090 children studied in Chicago, 825 suffered from malnutrition.2

In the 1940s, West Virginia surveyed students from various cities about their eating habits. They found that poor breakfasts were the biggest problem. By 1947 the state established the Good Breakfast for Every Man, Woman, and Child program with the slogan “Start the Day the Good Breakfast Way.”3

Some of the findings reported by West Virginia School Children’s Diet Study.3 Click to enlarge.

Some of the findings reported by West Virginia State Nutrition Committee.3 Click to enlarge.

In 1966, the Child Nutrition Act enacted The School Breakfast Program (SBP) as a pilot project. “During the first year of operation, the SBP served about 80,000 children at a federal cost of $573,000.”4 In fiscal year 2007, “the participating schools served . . . 1.7 billion breakfasts at a federal cost of $2.2 billion.”5 Current research shows that “10.8 million low-income children participated in the School Breakfast Program on an average day in school year 2012-2013, an increase of more than 310,000 children from the previous year.”6 And “for Fiscal Year 2012, the School Breakfast Program cost $3.3 billion, up from $1.9 billion in Fiscal Year 2005.”1

Today’s programs must meet the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, which provide evidence-based nutrition standards. The government will implement new guidelines in 2015 under the Federal Rule Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program. “This rule requires most schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat- free and low-fat fluid milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat and trans-fat in meals; and meet the nutrition needs of school children within their calorie requirements.”7

ChooseMyPlateChoose MyPlate is an easy way for people to adhere to the dietary guidelines set out by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and the Dept. of Agriculture.

Breakfast is not just for school children. Remember to take time for breakfast no matter your age.


1. Hewins J, Burke, Mike. School Breakfast Scorecard: 2012-2013 School Year. Washington, DC: Food Research and Action Center (FRAC); 2014. Accessed January 31, 2014.

2. Bryant, Louise Stevens. School Feeding; Its History and Practice at Home and Abroad. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company; 1913. Access at:

3. State of West Virginia. Start the Day the Good Breakfast Way: A Statewide Nutrition Program Sponsored by The West Virginia State Nutrition Committee September 1947-August 1948. State of West Virginia; 1948.

4. USDA Food and Nutrition Service website. Accessed February 10, 2014.

5. National Research Council. School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2010. Accessed on: January 31, 2014.

6. The School Breakfast Program:  Fact Sheet. Washington, DC:  USDA Food and Nutrition Service; Accessed February 11, 2014.

7. Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Fed Regist. 2012;77(17):4088-4167. To be codified at 7 CFR §210 and 220. Accessed on: January 31, 2014.