Saturday 01 April 2023

School breakfast makes for healthier, more alert children: trial


Providing breakfast at school for the under 13s is improving concentration and motivation, a trial has found, but over half of schools are struggling to organise the meal.

The four-month trial, among 457 primary schools, showed that pupils who were served breakfast and snacks during the break showed better concentration and were more alert in class, a survey by organising education charity Jeugdeducatiefonds found.

Of the 457 schools, 63% said pupils were able to concentrate more, 66% said they had more energy and 70% said the children were eating a healthier diet.

Teachers commented that ‘children are coming to school on time. 8.30am used to be a problem but 7.45 and a nice breakfast works well. It’s a much more relaxed way to start the day,’ and ‘it’s a lovely social event, especially for kids that don’t have that experience at home’.

However, over half of the participating schools said they lacked the proper facilities, such as space for large groups of children and insufficient cold storage, and experienced some funding hitches. Most relied on volunteers and parents to buy the groceries and prepare the breakfasts.

School meals have never been a feature in Dutch schools but rising financial problems facing some parents – resulting in more children going to school on an empty stomach – prompted the education ministry to support the free breakfast trial.

Originally meant to be temporary, education minister Dennis Wiersma is now going to extend the funding for the scheme to include more schools.

According to Jeugdeducatie director Hans Spekmans, some 1,800 of the country’s primary 7,000 primary schools would benefit from free breakfasts. If over half of the pupils at a school grow up in ‘relative poverty’ (a family income of  €2,000 a month) they can apply for the scheme.

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