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Non-profit organization pushes breakfast initiative

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Breakfast is argued to be the most important meal of the day, especially for growing children who attend school and need energy to pay attention in their classrooms, perform well on tests and have good behavior.

One organization working to promote school breakfast is The Indiana Youth Institute.

The Indiana Youth Institute is a statewide non-profit organization that works for several purposes aimed at children. IYI firsts work to service more than 8,000 people who work with children and youth including trainings, webinars, conferences, grants and more. Secondly, the IYI works to provide data and statistics concerning youth including public service announcements for kids, online information and other media. Thirdly, the IYI operates several websites that help youth focus on career building and finding money for college. Finally, IYI has created a mentoring partnership that has provided over 3,000 mentors for children in the state along with serving previously existing mentoring programs.

Bill Stanczykiewicz, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute, feels many schools in the state are not taking advantage of the government funded school breakfast programs.

"A good breakfast is the best start to a school day, and unfortunately, because of economic situations, many people can't provide breakfast for their children at home," Stanczykiewicz said. "Half of the children in the state get free or reduced lunch, but only a fourth of those students eat breakfast at school. Maybe the other 25 percent are eating breakfast at home, but probably not. It's very likely they're going to school hungry."

Stanczykiewicz said parents, schools and community members can work to close the gap and make sure every child gets a good breakfast.

Stanczykiewicz said eating breakfast comes down to common sense.

'If children are really, deeply, hungry," Stanczykiewicz said, "that will affect how they do in school, their health and their behavior. There are several implications to children not eating breakfast."

IYI and Stanczykiewicz noticed this problem in schools and partnered with Elanco, the animal health division of Eli Lilly, who found in areas where child poverty increases and school breakfast is a relatively new program, it can often take schools awhile to adapt.

"School officials are hardworking people and they are looking at data," Stanczykiewicz said, "but it can take awhile to respond to that data. Where Elanco found gaps is in school districts where school breakfast is relatively new."

Stanczykiewicz also said so much is talked about concerning school breakfast, specifically free and reduced lunch options, but school breakfast tends to fly under the radar.

"A lot of people may not know there is a school breakfast program," Stanczykiewicz said. "Sometimes the issue is just creating awareness that this program exists, find out where there are gaps of eligible students who have not signed up and providing them the opportunity to participate."

Stanczykiewicz said it's easy for a school corporation to set up school breakfast, as it only costs $3,000-$4,000 to start up, and then is funded from the government after that.

Carolyn Kumpf, director of personnel, data and food services at Clay Community Schools, said CCS offers school breakfast.

Kumpf said there are 4,348 students enrolled in the school corporation and 52 percent of students are enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program. Kumpf said the average number of students eating breakfast a day in CCS is 1,120.

Kumpf said she does not feel the breakfast participation rate is low in CCS, and she feels many students receive breakfast at home.

Kumpf, like Stanczykiewicz, emphasized the importance of school breakfast as it relates to a student's performance.

"Breakfast gives them the nutrition they need to think and to prepare them for the day," Kumpf said.

Stanczykiewicz said, if parents are unable to provide breakfast for their children, they should not feel afraid to enroll their students in the school breakfast program.

"Most people want to provide for themselves, and that is commendable," Stanczykiewicz said, "but if you're unable to provide breakfast for your children it's important to do what's best for them.

"It may be harmful to a child to not have breakfast, and providing them with that option helps them in school, and helps create a better future for them in the end," Stanczykiewicz said.

Anyone with questions about the CCS breakfast program can contact Kumpf at the CCS Administrative office at 443-4461.

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