Over 50 million students will attend public elementary and secondary schools, many of whom will go to school hungry.

What happens next is heartbreaking. Their attention spans shorten. Their energy levels plummet. Their productivity wanes. Learning suffers. Lives suffer.

It’s time to change that. The solution? Breakfast in the Classroom.

It’s a fact: eating breakfast at school helps children learn. Studies show that children who eat breakfast at the start of their school day have higher math and reading scores. They have sharper memory and show faster speed on cognitive tests. They have broader vocabularies. They do better on standardized tests. They focus better and behave better.

Eating breakfast at school has health benefits too. Children are less likely to be absent. They’re less likely to see the school nurse and less likely to be overweight. They eat more fruit, drink more milk and consume a wider variety of foods.

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Many school districts participate in the federally funded School Breakfast Program, but its performance in eliminating hunger has fallen short of its potential. Just more than half of children who are eligible for the free or reduced-cost breakfast are eating it.

It’s not hard to see why. School breakfast programs typically require children to eat in the cafeteria before school, apart from their peers. As a result, some children feel singled out and self-conscious of being labeled as “low income.” Timing is another deterrent. Many school breakfast programs take place prior to the start of the school day. When the bus is late or the carpool’s caught in traffic, the opportunity for breakfast is missed.

The result: hungry kids, and lost federal funding at the schools that need it most.