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October 5, 2006
For immediate release

Stonepark Students Promote Breakfast and Learning

Education

Stonepark Intermediate School students teamed up with the Healthy Eating Alliance and community leaders today to encourage students to eat a nutritious breakfast.

At the Whatís In Your Breakfast? event held at Stonepark school, students handed MLAs and local celebrities one of three randomly chosen brown bags which contained breakfasts typically eaten by Island students. Only one quarter of the participants received a bag containing a balanced and nourishing breakfast; another 25 per cent received a bag containing highly processed and less nutritious foods; and the remaining half of the participants received an empty bag because half of Island students after grade 6 do not eat breakfast every day.

PEI Healthy Eating Alliance Chair Bob Gray said the event was intended to raise awareness of the link between breakfast and learning and the need for students to improve their eating habits. ďIt was a fun event that involved students and the community while sending a clear message about the consequences of skipping breakfast or not eating enough good food in the morning,Ē he said. ďWorking together, we have made good progress to create healthy eating environments in the schools by introducing new nutrition policies and school breakfast and snack programs. Now we are calling on families to join us by creating healthier eating environments at home.Ē

Dr. Mitchell Zelman, paediatrician, told students that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. ďAfter fasting through the night, we all need good food to fuel our bodies and our minds. This is especially true for small children and small eaters,Ē he said.

A balanced breakfast includes as many of the four food groups as possible because each group provides different essential nutrients. People should aim to include at least three of the food groups at every meal. A balanced breakfast that includes carbohydrates, protein and fat gives a person energy and prevents a drop in blood sugar for several hours.

A sugary starchy breakfast alone, may provide some benefits to a child for one to two hours. Children who donít eat any breakfast are worse off because they lose their ability to concentrate and become restless by late morning. Breakfast skippers usually donít make up for lost nutrients later in the day. They tend to choose larger portions at meals and make impulsive and unhealthy food choices throughout the remainder of the day.

Research shows that breakfast has a powerful impact on learning. Well nourished children have more interest, higher concentration levels and improved academic performance. They tend to do better in tests that require problem solving and memory. They make fewer errors in problem solving and are more able to perform complex tasks.

Teachers say well nourished students are more energetic and calm and they develop positive relationships with their peers. They create fewer disruptions in class and this allows the teacher to focus on learning rather than behaviour and classroom management.

Children from all socioeconomic backgrounds skip breakfast and go to school hungry. They donít eat before leaving home because they donít make time for breakfast, they have no appetite first thing in the morning, or they donít have access to healthy food. School breakfast programs can help to address these issues.

There are 30 breakfast programs and 19 healthy snack programs which serve 5,800 students in Island schools. Programs are universal and offer nutritious food to all students free of charge.

School breakfast programs support student achievement and the development of healthy eating habits at an early age. They also create a sense of community among students, school staff and volunteers. The most successful breakfast programs are those that encourage involvement through partnerships in the school community.

For more information on healthy breakfast choices or school breakfast programs, contact Charmaine at the Healthy Eating Alliance, 902 368 6844 or visit www.healthyeatingpei.ca.

BACKGROUNDER

Whatís In Your Breakfast?

A Healthy Eating Week Event to Promote Breakfast and Learning

Whatís in Your Breakfast? is a school-based initiative to improve health and learning - two outcomes that are closely intertwined.

It is organized by the Healthy Eating Alliance and Stonepark Intermediate School during Healthy Eating Week to:

1. Raise awareness about what we eat for breakfast and how we can eat a more nutritious breakfast.

2. Increase understanding among intermediate students and parents of the powerful relationship between breakfast and learning.

3. Engage students in healthy eating practices at a time in their lives when they are taking more control over their own food choices.

What are the issues?

There are two main issues: Students either skip breakfast or they do not eat a balanced breakfast.

Hunger seriously impairs a childís ability to learn. When a child is hungry, everything else is secondary.

A sugary starchy breakfast may provide some benefit to a child for 1-2 hours.

Breakfast skippers often have trouble making it through the morning. Many lose their ability to concentrate and become restless by late morning. Their bodies have been fasting for many hours. This is especially worrisome for small children who donít eat much at one time.

Childrenís hunger has physical symptoms such as stomach pain, headache, muscle fatigue and sleepiness. Psychosocial symptoms include anxiety, nervousness, anger, indecisiveness, and unhappiness.

How does breakfast improve learning?

Research shows that breakfast improves cognition and behaviour. Well nourished students have more interest, concentration and improved academic performance.

They do better in tests that require problem solving and memory, make fewer errors in problem solving activities, are more able to perform complex tasks, and have improved late morning performance.

Teachers say that well nourished students are energetic and calm and they develop positive relationships with peers. They create fewer disruptions in class and the teacher is able to spend time on learning rather than behaviour management.

Whatís in a nutritious breakfast?

It includes as many of the four food groups as possible because each group provides different essential nutrients. Aim for at least three of the four food groups.

A balanced breakfast consists of carbohydrate, protein and fat. It gives a child energy and prevents a drop in blood sugar for several hours.

A balanced breakfast keeps a child energized until lunch. It can be a quick and easy meal served at home, at school or on the go.

Why do people skip breakfast?

Many people donít eat breakfast because they donít make time for breakfast, they have no appetite first thing in the morning or they have no access to nutritious food.

Why is breakfast the most important meal of the day?

After fasting through the night, your body needs food. Good nutrition begins with breakfast. It provides about one-quarter of the recommended dietary allowance for key nutrients such as protein, vitamin A, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.

Breakfast skippers tend not to make up for lost nutrients later in the day. They average less than two-thirds of the recommended daily intake of many important nutrients.

People who skip breakfast usually choose larger portions at lunch and they make impulsive and unhealthy food choices throughout the day.

Is this a socioeconomic issue?

Children of all socioeconomic levels are at risk for poor nutrition. Children from all backgrounds skip breakfast and go to school hungry.

With parents working, many children are on their own for meals and snacks. Often, they donít have the knowledge or skills to choose or prepare healthy food. As a result, they skip meals altogether or they choose foods with limited nutritional value. This may appease their hunger but it does not meet their nutritional needs.

The learning-related effects of poor nutrition are not always physically or immediately evident. We canít assume that a child of normal weight is well nourished.

How do school breakfast programs help?

Breakfast programs promote student achievement and healthy eating. They also create a sense of community among students, parents and volunteers.

Programs are universal and offer nutritious food to all students free of charge. They reach students at risk without the stigma attached to income-based programs.

There are 30 breakfast programs and 19 snack programs in PEI, serving 5,800 students.

The national Breakfast for Learning organization provides partial funding for food, equipment and operating costs. The most successful breakfast programs are those that encourage local involvement through partnerships in the school community.

The presence of a breakfast program does not guarantee student participation or breakfast consumption, nor is the absence of a program equivalent to breakfast skipping.

What can families do?

This is a major concern for many Island families. Parents are concerned when their child skips breakfast or doesnít eat enough good food before going to school. All children are different. Some want to sleep in and donít allow time for breakfast. Some children are not hungry until later in the day. Some donít want to eat nutritious foods.

Working with the Healthy Eating Alliance, schools are making real progress in creating healthy eating environments at school. Now we are calling on families to create healthier eating environments at home.

Families should take time to plan breakfast in advance and prepare as much as possible the night before. They should make time in the morning for breakfast... at home, at school or on the go.

Parents are encouraged to understand their childís issues and explore options that meet their childís nutritional and learning needs.

For information on healthy breakfast choices contact the PEI Healthy Eating Alliance at www.healthyeatingpei.ca or Dietitians of Canada at www.dietitians.ca or www.breakfastforlearning.ca

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Media Contact: Jean Doherty
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