Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) recently announced 75 Michigan schools were awarded grants totaling $250,000 to provide healthy breakfasts in more classrooms. The Building Healthy Communities through Breakfast: First Fuel Breakfast Challenge Grants will help to ensure that over 35,000 children in the state will receive a healthier start to their school day.
“Students who start their day off right with a nutritious breakfast are more prepared to learn and succeed,” said Shannon Carney Oleksyk, registered dietitian and healthy living adviser for the Blues’ Social Mission team. “This program continues our commitment at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to improve the health of children across the state and help them realize their fullest potential,” said Oleksyk.
Studies show that students who eat breakfast score higher on standardized tests, have better attendance, are less tardy, behave better in class and are less likely to be obese or overweight. Despite the strong evidence about the importance of breakfast to student performance, only 86.7 percent of Michigan schools currently offer breakfast onsite, ranking the state 35th nationally.
The grants were awarded statewide, with the goal of increasing the availability of healthy breakfasts served in the classrooms of 75 different schools. The selected schools will customize the method of breakfast service to meet individual school needs so kids can have options like grab-and-go breakfast or breakfast vending machines.
“A healthy breakfast is a critical first step toward helping children focus in school. No child should be too hungry to think and learn, and that’s why United Dairy Industry of Michigan joins Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in applauding all the schools that received this grant,” said Sharon Toth, registered dietitian and UDIM chief executive officer.
The grants will also help Michigan schools reach the Michigan Department of Education’s First Fuel Breakfast Challenge goal of raising breakfast participation rates to at least 60 percent of its school lunch participation rates. The award amounts range from $900 to $9,000 to help schools pay for equipment such as coolers, breakfast carts and kiosks as well as marketing of each new breakfast program.
Among Michigan schools that provide breakfast, only 42 percent of all students who receive school lunches also receive breakfast – well below the First Fuel Breakfast Challenge goal of 60 percent. Reaching this goal is expected to provide an estimated $22.9 million for the state in federal reimbursement.