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PA Education Secretary Emphasizes Importance of Breakfast for Student Performance

Department Announces Steps to Increase Participation in the School Breakfast Program

HARRISBURG, Pa., March 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak today ate breakfast with 3rd graders from Harrisburg City School District to highlight school breakfast programs and announce steps the department is taking to increase participation in these vital programs.

"Children who start the day with a healthy breakfast are more likely to be alert and ready to learn," Zahorchak said. "Especially during difficult economic times, we encourage all schools to participate in the school breakfast program and give their students a healthy start to the school day."

In Pennsylvania, about one in three school-aged children - more than 668,000 of 1.8 million - are eligible to receive free or reduced-cost breakfasts, but only about 29 percent of those eligible participate in the program. The department is increasing its promotion of school breakfast programs in order to help boost participation levels.

The department has revised a policy directive for schools to allow school breakfasts to be included as part of instructional time during regularly scheduled homeroom periods and classroom instruction. Additionally, the "Breakfast Brigade," which includes 8 members from school districts around the state, will work with schools to implement or expand participation in the School Breakfast Program by identifying barriers, analyzing costs, and developing implementation plans.

The department continues to work closely with Pennsylvania State University, the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Center and the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association to raise awareness of breakfast programs.

David Lloyd, Food Service Director at Harrisburg City School District and a Breakfast Brigader, works with other schools interested in implementing Breakfast in the Classroom because he sees, first hand, the benefits that have occurred within his school district.

"At Ben Franklin Elementary, serving breakfast in the classroom seems to have a calming effect on the students," Lloyd said. "Teachers are finding the students to be more attentive, better behaved and ready to learn after they have had breakfast. Tardiness has decreased as well as absenteeism. The nurse reports that there are fewer visits before lunch due to hunger related headaches and stomach aches."

"Especially in these troubled economic times, more and more families are experiencing difficulties in keeping their children adequately nourished," said Joseph A. Quattrocchi, executive director of the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Center. "The School Breakfast Program is a local resource - responding to the needs of children who otherwise might not get the most important meal of the day - ensuring that a well-fed student is one who is better prepared to learn."

    CONTACT: Leah Harris
    (717) 783-9802

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Education
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