A partnership formed between the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is aimed at helping to reduce childhood hunger and improve academic performance among students across the state.
The joint program announced by the two organizations will help to increase the number of students across the state that are eating school breakfast daily.
The new program will award grants totaling $250,000 to as many as 75 schools across Michigan, with the goal of increasing the number of students eating school breakfast in the classroom.
Schools can customize the method of breakfast service to meet their needs, such as offering a grab-and-go breakfast, breakfast after first period, breakfast vending machines or delivering breakfast to the classroom or in the bus loop.
"When students start their day off right with a nutritious breakfast, they are ready to learn and ready to succeed," said Shannon Carney Oleksyk, registered dietitian and healthy living advisor for the Blues' social mission.
Carney Oleksyk continued, "Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is excited to partner with the United Dairy Industry of Michigan to ensure that kids are well-nourished at school because it's harder to learn on an empty stomach. This grant program continues our commitment to improving the health and well-being of children in communities across Michigan."
The grants are aimed at helping Michigan schools reach their First Fuel Breakfast Challenge goal of raising breakfast participation rates to at least 60 percent of their school lunch participation rates.
Applicants must start, grow or sustain a breakfast in the classroom program designed to have students eat breakfast as part of the school-day routine. All public, charter and nonprofit elementary, middle and high schools are eligible to apply for the grant.
The grant awards will range from a maximum of $3,000 for smaller schools up to $6,000 for medium-size schools and $9,000 for large schools.
Schools can use grant dollars to help pay for equipment such as coolers, breakfast carts and kiosks. The deadline to apply for the grant is May 17.
"No child in Michigan should start the day on an empty stomach, too hungry to learn," said Michigan Department of Community Health (DCH) Director Jim Haveman. "Grant programs like the one announced today by Blue Cross Blue Shield and United Dairy Industry of Michigan are a crucial step toward tackling this problem. DCH is pleased to promote this grant opportunity that aligns schools with The Michigan Health and Wellness 4x4 Plan."
Among Michigan schools that provide breakfast, only 42 percent of all students who get school lunches also receive breakfast - well below the First Fuel Breakfast Challenge goal of 60 percent.
Michigan is expected to receive over $22.9 million in federal reimbursement by achieving this goal.
Studies show that students who eat breakfast score better on standardized tests, have better attendance, have fewer tardies, behave better in class and are less likely to be obese or overweight.
Despite the strong evidence that links eating breakfast to higher student performance, only 86.7 percent of Michigan schools offer breakfast in their buildings, ranking the state 35th nationally.
"Michigan's dairy farmers are proud to help Michigan children reach their fullest potential, and the first step in that process is by access to a healthy breakfast," said Sharon Toth, registered dietitian and chief executive officer for UDIM.
Toth concluded, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. No child should be too hungry to think and learn, and that's why we're pleased to partner with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to provide these grants."
Schools interested in applying for the grants must submit online applications by May 17 at www.fueluptoplay60.com.
Awards will be announced May 24.