50+ Maricopa County schools now serving breakfast In the classroom
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50+ Maricopa County schools now serving breakfast in the classroom

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  • Tom Evans/Evans Communications

A Student Eating Breakfast In The Classroom As He Does Some Bell Work. Photo Courtesy Of Valley Of The Sun United Way

This school year, more students in the Phoenix metropolitan area have a better chance to reach higher levels of achievement, thanks to Valley of the Sun United Way increasing  the number of schools serving breakfast in the classroom.

Program Impact

Earlier this month, Liberty School District in Buckeye signed up to participate in the Breakfast in the Classroom program, adding its six schools to the more than 50 schools in Greater Phoenix.

50+ Maricopa County schools now serving breakfast in the classroom BreakfastInTheClassroomGroupAug23

Students having breakfast in their classroom. Photo courtesy Valley of the Sun United Way.

That means the 33,000 students eating balanced meals in the classroom will, at a minimum, not go hungry in the morning and, at best, will increase their capacity to learn and improve their grades.

The program has grown in the past year from 14 schools to 51, and increased the number of students served from about 10,000 to more than 33,000.

Avondale Elementary School District also came on board earlier this summer, adding 10 additional schools.

Student Need

Students who eat breakfast each day, on average, score more than 17 percent higher on math tests and are 20 percent more likely to graduate than students who don’t eat breakfast at all.I

In Maricopa County, approximately 82,000 households struggle to put food on the table for themselves or their families, and 45 percent of them are households with children.

50+ Maricopa County schools now serving breakfast in the classroom BreakfastInTheClassrromGirlAug23

A student taking her breakfast back to her desk. Photo courtesy of Valley of the Sun United Way

Valley of the Sun United Way wants to bring this program to more schools impacting more than 74,000 students in need throughout Maricopa County.

Current Funding Available

In fact, with current funding, there is still capacity for as many as 100 more schools to participate, thanks to the contributions of individuals at an April fundraiser and the support of funding by Vitalyst Health Foundation.

“So far we’ve been excited with the incredible response and generosity from the community for Breakfast in the Classroom,” said Jayson Matthews, a director at Valley of the Sun United Way.

“The fact that we have more than 50 schools on board is a terrific milestone but there’s so much more to do. To feed more children and help them curb hunger and help their focus, we encourage administrators, teachers and parents to reach out to us and find out how this program can help our kids.”

Breakfast, as the old adage goes, is the most important meal of the day. Starting school days on empty stomachs can make students more easily distracted and fare worse in class than counterparts who eat breakfast.

That conclusion is based on research — but it’s also just common sense. Kids who eat breakfast on a regular basis perform better academically, have increased attendance and make fewer trips to the school nurse’s office, research says.

50+ Maricopa County schools now serving breakfast in the classroom BreakfastInTheClassroomAug23

A student eating breakfast in the classroom as he does some bell work. Photo courtesy of Valley of the Sun United Way

Children who eat school breakfast are more likely to, according to research, reach higher levels of achievement in reading and math, concentrate better, be more alert, retain more of what they learn and participate in class.

One in five Arizonans live below the federal poverty line and record numbers of Valley residents continue to turn to local food banks for assistance. And that means a lot of kids go to school hungry.

Alternative breakfast programs like Breakfast in the Classroom also addresses a factor holding back participation in other before school breakfast programs.

Many students who are eligible for free or reduced-price school breakfast do not participate because of the stigma that only poor students go to the cafeteria for breakfast before school.

By offering breakfast to all students, some of the stigma of eating school breakfast is eliminated. Research shows that a Breakfast in the Classroom model is the single best way to increase participation and achieve the widespread gains in academic success linked to school breakfast consumption.

To learn more about the program or to make a donation, go to: vsuw.org/breakfast