Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and United Dairy Industry of Michigan partner to bring breakfast to Michigan kids

Partnership to improve overall health, school performance with grant program

April 29, 2013

LANSING, Mich. – In a partnership aimed at reducing childhood hunger, improving health and boosting student performance, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM) today announced a joint program to improve health by increasing the number of students across the state eating school breakfast daily.

The announcement was made this morning at Colt Early Childhood Education Center in the Waverly School District at an event attended by Director of Michigan Department of Community Health Jim Haveman; Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge); Kyle Guerrant, director, Office of School Support Services, Michigan Department of Education; Jason Hanson, retired placekicker, Detroit Lions; and representatives from the Blues and UDIM.

UDIM and the Blues will contribute $125,000 each in grant funding, totaling $250,000, which will be distributed to 75 eligible schools, to increase the number of students eating breakfast daily. Schools can customize the method of breakfast service to meet their needs: grab-and-go breakfast, breakfast after first period, breakfast vending machines, delivering breakfast to the classroom, or breakfast in the bus loop, to name a few.  

"Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is excited to partner with the United Dairy Industry of Michigan to ensure that kids are well-nourished," said Shannon Carney Oleksyk, a registered dietitian and healthy living advisor for the Blues’ social mission.  "A healthy breakfast gives kids the energy needed to grow, learn and play. Encouraging and supporting healthy behaviors at a young age can lead to a lifetime of healthy choices."

Among Michigan schools that provide breakfast, only 42 percent of all students who get school lunches also get breakfast – well below the First Fuel Breakfast Challenge goal of 60 percent.  The grants aim to help Michigan schools reach their First Fuel Breakfast Challenge goal of raising breakfast participation rates to at least 60 percent of school lunch participation rates.

The grants are open to public, charter and private nonprofit elementary, middle and high schools. Schools receiving grants must start, grow or sustain a breakfast in the classroom program for students to eat breakfast as part of the school-day routine. The grants are based on the size of the school, with a maximum funding of $9,000, and will help schools pay for equipment such as coolers, breakfast carts and meal vending machines.

"No child in Michigan should start the day on an empty stomach, too hungry to learn," said Department of Community Health Director Jim Haveman. "Grant programs like the one announced today by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and United Dairy Industry of Michigan are a crucial step toward tackling this problem. The Michigan Department of Community Health is pleased to promote this grant opportunity that aligns schools with the Michigan Health and Wellness 4x4 Plan."

"The benefits of providing a healthy breakfast to students are countless," said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. "I encourage all schools to participate in my Superintendent’s Breakfast Challenge to help improve the learning environment and encourage healthy behaviors. Additionally, the economic benefit to schools could lead to further investment in necessary programs like this."

Reaching the goal of 60 percent participation is expected to provide more than $22.9 million for Michigan in federal reimbursement.

"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 United Dairy Industry of Michigan. "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."

Studies show that students who eat breakfast score better on standardized tests, have better attendance, are less tardy, behave better in class and are less likely to be obese or overweight. Despite the strong evidence linking the importance of breakfast to student performance, only 86.7 percent of Michigan schools offer breakfast in their buildings, ranking the state 35th nationally.

"As a former professional athlete and father, I know how important it is to get a balanced breakfast for learning and health," said Jason Hanson, a placekicker for the Detroit Lion for 21 years.

Schools interested in applying for the grants must fill out an online application by May 24, 2013. More information can be found on our grants and contributions page and on the UDIM page. 

Conference calls will be held on May 7, 2013, at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to provide more information on the program and application process. To join the calls, please dial 800-462-5837 and enter passcode 210301#. Awards will be announced May 30, 2013.


Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit organization, provides and administers health benefits to more than 4.4 million members residing in Michigan in addition to members of Michigan-headquartered groups who reside outside the state. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are nonprofit corporations and independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more company information, visit

The United Dairy Industry of Michigan is the umbrella organization for the Dairy Council of Michigan and the American Dairy Association of Michigan. On behalf of funding members, these non-profit organizations provide science-based nutrition information to, and in collaboration with, a variety of stakeholders committed to fostering a healthier society, including health professionals, educators, school nutrition directors, academia, industry, consumers and media. For more information, visit

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