First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige and the DOE food services branch are on a mission: to encourage more students to start their day with a healthy school breakfast. “We all know it’s hard to concentrate on an empty stomach,” said Mrs. Ige, a former DOE teacher and vice principal. “When students eat breakfast and receive the proper nutrition, they’re ready to learn and more likely to succeed.”
The “Jump Start Breakfast” pilot program being launched at up to 10 Hawai‘i schools has itself been jumpstarted by a $60,000 grant from the national No Kid Hungry campaign. Other community non-profits such as Hawai‘i Appleseed, the Safeway Foundation and the Albertsons Foundation are also supporters. In addition, Governor Ige has declared March School Breakfast Month to highlight for families the student benefits in improved health and academic achievement. According to Dexter Kishida, a DOE food services supervisor, the goal of the campaign is to increase the average daily participation in school breakfasts at the pilot schools by 1,100 meals.
For some students in low-income areas, this means they could have a nutritious start to their day at no cost or as little as 30 cents per meal, depending on the family income. In Hawai‘i’s public schools, breakfast is offered at all 256 campuses statewide through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) School Breakfast Program. The cost for the meal depends on the family’s ability to pay. If the state’s DOE breakfast participation increased, thousands more students would be gaining needed nutrition and more families statewide would benefit and save money. “Some students aren’t eating breakfast at home,” Kishida said. “They may just grab a bag of chips and barely get to school on time. At school we can provide a whole grain pizza pocket or banana bread and a fruit cup. We’re raising parent and community awareness of how vital a good breakfast is to help children jump start their day.”
Kishida said the schools in the pilot program will be trying different approaches to increase participation, such as “grab and go” items students can eat on the run or breakfast in the classrooms. The pilot schools include Hawai‘i island – Hilo Union Elementary, Kapi‘olani Elementary, and Waiākea High; Leeward district – Ewa Elementary, Leihoku Elementary, Wai‘anae Elementary and Intermediate; and Honolulu district – Central Middle, Fern Elementary, Linapuni Elementary.