COLUMBUS, Ohio - The most important meal of the day is being celebrated at schools across the Buckeye State during this National School Breakfast Week.
Each day, more than 440,000 Ohio students get a healthy, nutritious meal before they start their day through the federal School Breakfast Program.
Diane Pratt-Heavner, the director of media relations with the School Nutrition Association, says for some kids, school breakfast and lunch are their only opportunities to have a complete, healthy meal. And she adds that the benefits cannot be underestimated.
"Children who eat breakfast at school perform better on standardized tests," she says. "Kids who eat a healthy school breakfast are more likely to be able to pay attention in class and concentrate on their school work. And they also show improved attendance and behavior."
The theme of this year's National School Breakfast Week is "I Heart School Breakfast" - and students, parents and educators are encouraged to show their love for the program on social media.
Pratt-Heavner explains that as they look to expand school breakfast participation, many districts are finding ways to make the meals more accessible.
"It can sometimes be hard for kids coming off the bus to get to the cafeteria in time for school breakfast," she notes. "So, many schools are offering unique serving options. They're setting up grab-and-go kiosks or they're offering breakfast in the classroom."
She says the meals served at school meet federal nutrition standards that limit fat, calories and sodium. And she says many school cafeterias are serving fun options that include a wide assortment of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
"We're seeing yogurt parfaits and smoothies in the mornings," she adds. "Schools are also trying to incorporate more protein choices on school breakfast menus because protein can help keep a child satiated throughout the school day."