Breakfast Of Champions

With an assist from breakfast advocate and NFL quarterback Marcus Mariota, Dawn Amano-Ige is leading the statewide initiative Jump Start Breakfast, which aims to get more children excited about their morning meals.

It’s the most important meal of the day, yet Hawai‘i ranks second-lowest in the country for student participation in school breakfast.

To change that statistic, a group of community leaders and organizations — led by first lady of Hawai‘i Dawn Amano-Ige — is making good use of a national grant provided last year by No Kid Hungry. Hawai‘i was one of six states chosen to participate in the national nonprofit’s School Breakfast Leadership Institute.

With Ige at the helm, community partners at Hawai‘i Child Nutrition Programs, the state Department of Education’s School Food Services Branch, Hawai‘i Appleseed and Safeway Foundation joined together to increase school breakfast participation at Community Eligibility Provision schools.

“We call it Jump Start Breakfast because (it’s how they) jump-start the day,” says Ige.

The re-branded Jump Start Breakfast enterprise has breathed new life into the state’s breakfast program, having launched in eight O‘ahu and two Big Island schools this year — and plans are in the works to include Kaua‘i campuses, as well.

The benefits of eating a healthy breakfast is something familiar to Hawai‘i’s own Marcus Mariota, who remembers having morning meals with his parents while in elementary school. The mission behind the Jump Start Breakfast initiative mirrors that of his Motiv8 Foundation as well, which focuses on improving the lives of Hawai‘i’s youth.

“For me, I think it’s important to just start your day that way,” says the Saint Louis alum. “You have an opportunity to get a good meal, to get the energy that you need, and at the same time, it’s nice to sit down, maybe with friends or family, and just recap and go over what you need to get done for the day.”

So, how does the Tennessee Titans quarterback start his day? Well, in true local-style fashion, he’s a big fan of SPAM and eggs, fried rice or a loco moco, but during periods of training opts for healthier options like a protein-rich meal with egg whites or avocado toast (the latter of which he says his mom’s is hands-down the best).

“I’m a big breakfast person,” he adds. “So I try to change it up every day.”

That mentality resonates with Jump Start Breakfast, which also has as one of its pillars a desire to incorporate variety into meal plans.

Jump Start Breakfast is a new way, adds Ige, of bolstering breakfast options for Hawai‘i’s keiki. So far, the initiative has come up with a number of options — grab-and go, extending breakfast hours, additional eating areas, new menu options and more — which it’s trying out in the aforementioned pilot campuses.

“Every school has a different model,” she explains.

The way this breakfast expansion works, then, is to find what fits best with each school.

“It’s not just, ‘OK, eat breakfast at school,” Ige continues. “That’s not realistic.”

For her part, Ige has always been interested in the health of Hawai‘i’s keiki. She’s been heavily involved in the state’s education system for quite some time now, and is an advocate of the state’s summer food program, which provides free meals to children at various locations throughout the community. And, as with the summer food program, Jump Start Breakfast ensures the meals are healthy, too.

“The meals follow the wellness guidelines,” adds Ige, who enjoys healthy breakfasts of yogurt or oatmeal with flax seeds and blueberries.

Each dish, then, adheres to specific nutrition protocols, including incorporating a certain amount of grains, limiting sugar and sodium, and putting a big focus on fresh, local fruits and veggies.

“So, they have a nutritious meal,” Ige continues. “And it’s either at low-cost or reduced cost, so parents can save money if they send their child to have breakfast at school. They don’t have to spend all that money and time preparing breakfast, and so, at the end of the month, you have a little bit more in your disposable income.”

But most of all, Jump Start Breakfast has at its forefront a goal to equip students with the tools they need to flourish.

“At the end of the day, if students start off the day with a healthy breakfast, they can think better, they feel better, behavior is better, and they’ll want to become more successful students in the classroom,” Ige concludes. “And really that’s our bottom line for all of this.

“We want our students to have the best start, the most successful start, in the school day and in their school careers.”

School Breakfast Benefits

• Breakfast can be purchased for under $2 (or, in many cases, free)

• Breakfast food is brain food

• Breakfast positively impacts student achievement, behavior, attendance and discipline issues

• Varied menu options mean keiki can always find something they like

Krazy For Kalo

To celebrate School Breakfast Month in March, the state DOE‛s food service division — known as ‘Āina Pono — highlights kalo as the Harvest of the Month option in a sweet and filling parfait (pictured to the right).