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Partnership gives students a healthy start, fewer sick days, better test scores

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois State Board of Education announced the winners of the Illinois School Breakfast Challenge, showcasing the link between a nutritious breakfast and classroom performance. Twelve school districts from across the State earned $36,000 in cash prizes for dramatically boosting their daily breakfast participation rates and closing the `breakfast gap.’

“This isn’t just about healthy eating,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “It’s about healthy minds, healthy outlooks and healthy futures. Students who eat breakfast are ready to learn and contribute to an overall better school environment.”

Recent studies show students who eat a healthy breakfast have 1.5 fewer sick days per year, see their math scores increase by 17 percent, and are 20 percent more likely to graduate from high school. School breakfast participation also helps decrease discipline and behavioral problems, visits to the school nurse and tardiness, according to studies.

The Illinois School Breakfast Challenge is a partnership with the Illinois State Board of Education, Midwest Dairy Council and Illinois No Kid Hungry Campaign. The State of Illinois offers a federally-funded School Breakfast Program, but less than half of eligible students participate by accepting a free breakfast. The Illinois School Breakfast Challenge encourages schools to take advantage of the program, with cash prizes ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 for schools that most dramatically increase their participation rates.

The twelve winners showed the largest percentage increase across the state in average daily participation of the School Breakfast Program from January-May of 2012 to August-December of 2012.The winners of the Challenge were recognized last week at a ceremony in the Governor’s Mansion and each school won $5,000, $3,000 or $1,000.

Illinois School Breakfast Challenge Winners

Award

School

District

City

$5,000

Jane Addams Elementary Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview District 89 Melrose Park
Lester Crawl Primary Center Lansing School District 158 Lansing
Lexington Junior High Lexington Jr. High School CUSD 7 Lexington
Lincoln Elementary Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview District 89 Maywood

$3,000

Harriet Gifford Elementary Elgin Unit School District 46 Machesney Park
Melrose Park Elementary

Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview District 89

Melrose Park
Olson Park Elementary Harlem Unit District 122 Elgin
West Richland Junior High West Richland CUSD 2 Noble

$1,000

Laurel Hill Elementary Elgin Unit School District 46 Elgin
Sheridan Elementary Elgin Unit School District 46 Elgin
Tonica Grade School

Tonica CCSD 79

Tonica
West Richland High West Richland CUSD 2 Noble

Many schools have instituted universal free breakfasts, which means all students have access to a healthy breakfast. Experts say this reduces any stigma of participating based on income eligibility and ensures that everyone gets a healthy start to the day. Additionally, schools with large increases in participation have instituted non-traditional serving locations, most often serving breakfast in the classrooms.

The School Breakfast Challenge is part of the Illinois No Kid Hungry Campaign launched in 2012 with support from the Illinois Commission to End Hunger and Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit which supports No Kid Hungry efforts in 17 states. Award monies can be used toward expanding participation in the winning schools’ breakfast programs.

At the School Breakfast Challenge Awards Ceremony, keynote speaker Billy Shore – who founded Share Our Strength in 1984 in response to famine in Ethiopia – told the audience, “Educators, physicians and business leaders are raising their voices about the impact childhood hunger is having on education, health and the economic future for our country. We can’t have a strong America with weak children.”

A 2011 report by Feeding America found that 745,000 Illinois children are at risk of hunger, about one in five children. Today, thanks in part to the Illinois School Breakfast Challenge, about 350,000 of those children are now eating a healthy breakfast at school, up 5 percent from the previous year.

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