Every year, as M-STEP testing day approaches for schools, teachers across the state go above and beyond to prepare their students for the big day. In addition to the top success tip – studying and learning the material, two other agenda items are always pushed to help ensure a successful test-taking day: a good night’s sleep and more importantly, a well-balanced, nutritious breakfast the morning of the test. While this is a proven way to assist with success, these tips should not only be encouraged on state testing days but every school day.

If school districts are aware of the importance of a nutritious meal before students sit down to take an important test, it begs to question, is a nutritious breakfast only important before a state test? What about midterms, pop quizzes, and preparation before normal test days that can impact students’ success in school? Every day, teachers are teaching, and students are learning. Just as athletes train & practice daily before a competition, or band members practice their chords daily before the show, students’ brains need to train daily as well.

Not all children are fortunate enough to receive a nutritious breakfast at home before school for various reasons, which is why serving school breakfast is so important for students. It’s hard to concentrate and comprehend lessons on an empty stomach. Studies have shown that students who eat school breakfast achieve 17.5% higher scores on standardized math tests, which leads one to believe eating school breakfast daily can also increase scores across the board in the classroom.

So how can we take action to ensure all kids are receiving a proper nutritious breakfast before tackling the school day? Connecting with the food service directors to find out what resources are needed to support their programs and encouraging all students to eat breakfast is a great start. Helping to wipe out the stigma that free school breakfast is only for students on free or reduced meal plans will also help with more students receiving daily school breakfast. School breakfast is for everyone, and what better time to lay the groundwork when meals are free for all students for the entire 2021-2022 school year.

Every school building is different. Start small, be realistic and discover what works best for the students and staff. Enhancing a breakfast program could be more trial and error until you find the best fit for your school’s needs. Consider alternative options to bring breakfast to students, such as serving in the classroom or grab-and-go kiosks. Also consider offering breakfast after the bell so late students don’t miss out on their morning boost.

Each student deserves every tool and resource at our disposal to set them up for success in the classroom. Creating the best learning environment starts with fuel for the mind, not only on special testing days, but a continuous pattern of everyday fueling with nutritious meals. “We can’t raise a child’s IQ and we aren’t their teachers, but if we are allowed through improved nutrition and regular physical activity, we can put a better student in the chair.” – Robert Murray MD, FAAP Pediatrician and Professor of Nutrition at the Ohio State University

For resources to enhance school breakfast programs, please visit https://www.milkmeansmore.org/better-with-breakfast-resources/, and contact a member of the Youth Wellness Team at Milk Means More for support.