Research shows that having healthier school meals is one of the most cost-effective methods of improving students’ academic performance. (Courtesy photo)

Breakfast fuels academic achievement at SF schools

Schools across the country are celebrating National School Breakfast Week. Today, in honor of our millionth school breakfast served this year, I’ll be eating cereal, fresh fruit and a granola bar with students at Hillcrest Elementary.

Our schools serve breakfast every day. Previously, students had to get to school early if they wanted to dine at school; now, students across the district have options for eating a healthy breakfast even after the school day has begun. This means more students are eating this important meal — six percent more this year, to be exact.

Nearly 8,000 students in the San Francisco Unified School District eat breakfast at school each day.

SEE RELATED: How SFUSD works to keep students safe

This means more students have a chance to do their best, and we’re rapidly expanding students’ choices and access to breakfast programs at schools across the district to support this goal.

Having breakfast as a part of the school day is convenient, promotes healthy eating and builds community at school. Most importantly, breakfast fuels students to do their best in the classroom.

Breakfast programs, especially when incorporated into the school day, are an effective tool in helping teachers and families get to school regularly and on time, and to help students focus on learning throughout the morning. In fact, research shows that having healthier school meals is one of the most cost-effective methods of improving students’ academic performance.

To ensure all students have the same chance at success, the SFUSD’s Student Nutrition Services is doing more than ever to bring breakfast to students in new and innovative ways. With our local food service partner, Revolution Foods, and the national nonprofit Share Our Strength, we’re making sure our breakfast programs meet student’s needs.

We’re listening to student and parent feedback to customize our breakfast menus and we’re exploring breakfast program options based on the school community’s needs.

Depending on the school community’s needs, there are a number of options to help more students get breakfast in a convenient way: serving in classrooms, serving in several locations throughout the school and serving at several times during the morning — for example, before school starts and a “second chance” breakfast time for students who prefer to eat later mid-morning.

This school year, 10 schools added new or expanded alternative breakfast models. With six percent more students eating breakfast at school than last year, hundreds more students are starting their days with an equal chance at success. At least 12 schools will add new breakfast models next year, meaning even more students will have a better chance to start their day with a healthy, convenient meal.

We hope you will take the opportunity to celebrate National School Breakfast Week! Popular choices on this week’s menu include: whole-grain French toast with maple turkey sausage; chorizo-spiced chicken sausage and omelet bagel sandwich; multigrain Cheerios with whole-grain apple granola bars and whole-grain bagels with cream cheese. All breakfasts are served with fresh fruit daily.

For breakfast and every meal served, we strive to provide locally sourced, fresh and high-quality ingredients in our meals. At the same time, we abide by our wellness policy — a minimum of sodium, sugar and fat, and free of prohibited additives.

Vincent Matthews is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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