A recent study by the Toronto school board shows that morning meals are directly related to how students perform at school.
Conducted by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the study evaluated the implementation of the Feeding Our Future pilot program, which provides nutritious breakfasts for all middle and secondary school students in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood, regardless of their ability to pay.
Evaluations done on the approximately 6,000 students in the participating four middle schools and three secondary schools show that students who eat a proper breakfast demonstrate an improved ability to stay on task, better behaviour and attitude, improved attendance, and were less likely to be suspended.
“This is tremendous work that highlights the importance of working with our provincial and municipal partners so that all students can succeed. We will do all we can to continue nutrition programs wherever it is needed,” Chris Bolton, chair of the TDSB, said in a statement.
According to the TDSB, almost all (97 percent) middle school (grades 6-8) students took part in the program, with 82 percent participating at least three days in a school week. The majority (85 percent) of secondary school students also took part in the program, with around 46 percent not missing more than three days in a school week.
The survey shows that 78 percent of students who had breakfast on most days were on track for graduation, compared to 61 percent of students who had breakfast only on few days or not at all.
Among secondary school students, those who had breakfast frequently were less likely to be suspended and more likely to attend school regularly.
Grade 7 and 8 students who had breakfast on most days exceeded provincial reading standards by a rate 10 percent higher than those who didn’t have breakfast.
Also, 75 percent of students who had breakfast on most school days rated their health as excellent or good compared to just 58 percent of those who had breakfast on two or fewer days.
The study recommends the pilot program, which was supposed to run for two years after its initiation in 2008 but has been maintained beyond the planned time, continue to provide nutritious fresh food to students.
“Feeding Our Future proves that your mother was right: eat a healthy breakfast and you will do well in school,” Catherine Parsonage, executive director of Toronto Foundation for Student Success, said in a statement.
“The new research affirms the fundamental importance of student nutrition programs and makes it clear that healthy food allows students to grow socially, emotionally, intellectually, and physically.”