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Breakfast after the Bell Challenge Boosts School Breakfast Participation

New England Patriots Player Duron Harmon and 2015 Vermont Dairy Farmer of the Year Les Pike paid a special visit to Morristown Elementary School on Monday with an important message: school breakfast fuels success!  The school hosted an assembly to celebrate the recent $12,000 in funding the school supervisory union was awarded for breakfast programs at Morristown Elementary School, Peoples Academy High School, and Stowe Elementary School. The funds come from the dairy farmers of Vermont and New England as part of the Vermont Breakfast after the Bell Challenge (VBABC)  to increase school breakfast availability by 20% statewide.

“Breakfast not only fuels the minds and bodies of our youth, but it is also a great way to encourage children to consume local dairy products like milk and yogurt every day,” said Pike, dairy farmer from Keewaydin Farm in Stowe, the 2015 Vermont Dairy Farm of the Year. “The future of the dairy industry as well as the health of today’s children are critical and deserve our support."

Harmon, a safety on the Patriots, played with dozens of students in the gymnasium and shared messages about the importance of health, wellness, and staying in school.

Since the start of the VBABC in January, 13 Vermont schools have enrolled to increase students’ access to a healthy start to the day. Research shows that the single most effective intervention a school can make to increase breakfast participation is to make breakfast available for students after the first school bell of the day.

“School breakfast after the bell is a win-win opportunity for everyone involved,” said Ed Oravec, Morristown school principal. “Students win with better access to good nutrition, which leads to improved attention and performance, and schools benefit from improved meal program finances.”

Anore Horton, nutrition initiatives director from Hunger Free Vermont, says that research links school breakfast with improved academic performance and behavior in students, but that not enough students are eating breakfast every day.

“Breakfast After the Bell is a proven strategy for increasing participation in our school breakfast program,” said Horton. “We are excited to see more schools offering breakfast in this model and therefore more students eating the healthy breakfasts provided by their schools, while developing life-long healthy eating habits.”

New England Dairy & Food Council and Hunger Free Vermont launched the challenge in January 2016. The VBABC is a multi-faceted project that includes resources, funding opportunities and awards, all in the name of ensuring students start the day with a healthy meal. The challenge will run for two four-month terms: January 2016 to April 2016 and September 2016 to December 2016.

“The challenge is a way for dairy farmers to continue to support breakfast programs in Vermont,” said registered dietitian Jill Hussels of New England Dairy & Food Council. “Over the past two years, $67,633 in funding has been provided to Vermont schools by the dairy farmers of Vermont and New England in support of the many benefits of school breakfast including improved test scores and fewer visits to the school nurse.”

During the event today, students also heard from several additional wellness champions including: 9th grade student Parker Spaulding from Spaulding High School and Vermont Student Ambassador for Fuel Up to Play 60, and Morristown School Food Service Director Jeffrey Brynn.

To learn more about the Vermont Breakfast After the Bell Challenge visit:

www.hungerfreevt.org/breakfast-after-the-bell-challenge