The claim that breakfast is the most important meal of the day isn’t just an opinion of doctors and foodies. There’s a wealth of science to back it up.

According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), children who do not eat breakfast are less able to learn and hunger can result in lower math scores and attention, behavioral and academic problems.

Years ago, the federal government acted on this evidence, granting money to school districts across the country to provide morning meals to their students. However, hundreds of Evanston students who qualify for free breakfast aren’t able to receive it because their schools don’t qualify for federal assistance. This adds to the challenges and inequities students in low-income households already face.

Since 2013, Books & Breakfast, a partner of the Evanston Neighborhood Network, began working to fill the gap. Each school day in four elementary schools across Evanston, more than 150 students meet early for breakfast — a mix of fresh fruit, low sugar cereals and a source of protein — and one-on-one guidance with tutors.

“The reason Books & Breakfast exists is to put into action the idea that we can — and we have to — do better so that all children benefit from the resources available in this town,” said Kim Hammock director of Books & Breakfast. “Too often, we see white students, who tend to come from homes with higher levels of resources, benefiting the most. Our goal is for every student to enter the classroom ready to learn.”

“Starting the day with a meal is super important,” Kim said. “But it’s only one piece of the daily sense of readiness. Teachers were saying kids are hungry and having a hard time with homework completion. Kids aren’t coming in with their work done.”

Books & Breakfast steps in to support them. Teachers, principals and counselors recommend students to the program, and they’re able to participate until they move on to middle school.

“[Books and Breakfast] is a way of providing additional support to students,” said Michelle Foster, a United Way AmeriCorps member who serves as an assistant site supervisor with Books & Breakfast. “We stand in the gap where students may feel like they do not have the resources to achieve or be as successful as someone else…”

Additionally, the tutors and Books & Breakfast staff seek to create a safe space where students feel supported and encouraged before a busy day of learning.

“We make sure our students know they have someone on their side,” Michelle said. “Saying ‘I believe in you and things are hard, but I know you can do it’ is a monumental help.”

Watch the video below to learn more about Books & Breakfast and Michelle’s AmeriCorps service!


Video by Courtney Morrison