Many More Low-Income Children Starting the Day with School Breakfast
Washington, D.C. – School breakfast continues to make significant gains in communities across the U.S., according to two new analyses by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) released today, which look at school breakfast participation at the district, state, and national level. During the 2013-2014 school year, an average of 11.2 million low-income children ate a healthy morning meal each day at school, an increase of 320,000 children from the previous school year, according to FRAC’s School Breakfast Scorecard (pdf) on state trends and School Breakfast — Making it Work in Large Districts (pdf).
FRAC measures School Breakfast Program participation by comparing the number of low-income children receiving school breakfast to the number of such children receiving school lunch. By this measure, nationally 53 low-income children ate school breakfast for every 100 who also ate school lunch, an increase from the previous school year’s ratio of 52:100, and far above the 43:100 ratio of a decade earlier.
Progress is being made, but still nearly half of low-income students in the U.S. are missing out on school breakfast and its well-established benefits for health and education. Research demonstrates the profound impact school breakfast has on improving nutrition and ensuring children start the day ready to learn.
“More low-income children are eating breakfast, and a large part of this success is due to more schools and states adopting proven strategies to increase participation,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “FRAC’s research has shown that participation grows in schools that offer breakfast in the classroom or from ‘grab and go’ carts, or that use other creative ways to get breakfast to hungry students. The new Community Eligibility Provision to expand the program in high poverty schools also is showing promise. We know what works, and more children are eating breakfast as a result. ”
Not only are more children starting the day with school breakfast, but they also are eating healthier meals as a result of new nutrition standards which went into full effect in the 2013-2014 school year.
FRAC’s School Breakfast Scorecard contains data on program participation for every state and for the nation. West Virginia, New Mexico, and Washington, D.C. all surpassed FRAC’s goal of reaching 70 low-income children with breakfast for every 100 who also ate lunch. Falling short of this measure has its costs: the 48 states that did not reach this goal missed out on more than $900 million in federal school breakfast funding and also missed serving breakfast to 3.5 million low-income children per day.
An accompanying analysis, School Breakfast – Making it Work in Large School Districts, examines school breakfast participation and policies in 62 large, mostly urban school districts across the country. The 10 school districts with the highest participation rates (Los Angeles Unified School District; Newark Public Schools; San Antonio Independent School District; Houston Independent School District; Shelby County, Tennessee Schools; Boise School District; Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools; Detroit Public Schools; Cincinnati Public Schools; and Syracuse City School District) all had large-scale programs that allowed students to eat breakfast in their classrooms at the beginning of the school day. As a result, they all met FRAC’s ambitious but achievable goal of reaching 70 low-income children with school breakfast for every 100 participating in school lunch.
Among the surveyed large school districts, participation ranged from a high of 102 low-income students in breakfast per 100 in lunch in Los Angeles Unified School District to a low of 34 per 100 in Oakland (CA) Unified School District.
”States and districts that adopt innovative programs and make participation a priority see success in getting breakfast to more low-income children, “ added Weill. “The upcoming Congressional Child Nutrition Reauthorization, more roll-out of breakfast in the classroom programs, continued expansion of Community Eligibility which allows high-poverty schools to offer free meals, and continued work at the state level all provide opportunities for policymakers, advocates, state agencies and school districts to work together to make a great program reach many more children.”
About the Reports: The School Breakfast Scorecard contains national and state data for breakfast participation. School Breakfast: Making it Work in Large School Districts surveys 62 large large school districts across the country on school breakfast participation rates and policies during the school year. Both reports are available at www.frac.org.