Report: School Breakfast Participation Grows at Steady Pace

2017-02-16

Thanks to the School Breakfast Program (SBP), more low-income children are eating a healthy breakfast than ever before. According to the annual School Breakfast Scorecard, released in February by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), in SY 2015-16, an average of 12.1 million students received a free or reduced-price morning meal each school day, an increase of 3.7% or 433,000 children from SY 2014-15. In fact, over the past 10 years, the Scorecard finds daily school breakfast participation has increased 50% among low-income children.

Results of this year’s report, clearly demonstrate that best practice strategies—to serve breakfast after the bell and offer free breakfast to all children in high-poverty schools—are working as they continue to expand into more schools across the country.

For the third year in a row, West Virginia was the top performer among states, providing breakfast to 83.9 low-income children for every 100 who ate school lunch. Utah remained at the bottom of the list for the second consecutive year, serving breakfast to fewer than 40 low-income children for every 100 having school lunch. Nevada had the largest increase over the past year, expanding breakfast participation among low-income children by 26.5%.

The Scorecard finds the number of schools offering school meal programs remained relatively steady, with 90,355 schools offering breakfast and 98,004 offering school lunch. However, the report finds, if all states met FRAC’s goal (which only West Virginia and New Mexico achieved) of providing at least 70 low-income children with school breakfast for every 100 participating in school lunch, an additional three million children would start the day with a breakfast at school.

FRAC also released, School Breakfast: Making it Work in Large School Districts, a companion report to the Scorecard, which concluded that SBP is critical to ensuring all students start their day with the nutritional breakfast they need to reach their full potential.

Eating breakfast improves a student’s academic performance, health and behavior. The School Nutrition Foundation (SNF) works with FRAC as part of Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom, where there are many online resources and grant opportunities available. SNF has also created a series of short videos to help operators calculate the financial viability, get stakeholder buy-in, determine best delivery model and equipment needed to start a “breakfast in the classroom” program.

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