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) that look at school breakfast participation: the School Breakfast Scorecard and School Breakfast—Making it Work in Large Districts. Among the findings: during the 2013-2014 school year, an average of 11.2 million low-income children ate breakfast each day at school, an increase of 320,000 from the previous school year.
FRAC measures School Breakfast Program participation by comparing the number of low-income children receiving school breakfast to the number receiving school lunch. By this measure, nationally 53 low-income children ate school breakfast for every 100 who also ate school lunch, a slight increase from the 52:100 ratio of the previous year but far above the 43:100 ratio of a decade earlier.
“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,” offers 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.”
The School Breakfast Scorecard shows that only West Virginia, New Mexico and Washington, D.C., achieved FRAC’s goal of reaching at least 70 low-income children with breakfast for every 100 who also ate lunch. That means 48 states collectively missed out on more than $900 million in federal school breakfast funding along with not serving breakfast to 3.5 million low-income children per day.
The School Breakfast—Making it Work in Large School Districts report examined school breakfast participation and policies in 62 large, mostly urban school districts across the country. The 10 with the highest participation rates were Los Angeles USD, Newark Public Schools, San Antonio ISD, Houston ISD, Shelby County (Tenn.) Schools, Boise School District, Kansas City Public Schools, Detroit Public Schools, Cincinnati Public Schools and Syracuse (N.Y.) City School District. Notably, all had large-scale programs that allowed students to eat breakfast in their classrooms at the beginning of the school day and all met the 70/100 school breakfast-to-lunch ratio goal.
Among the surveyed large school districts, participation ranged from a high of 102/100 at LAUSD to a low of 34/100 in Oakland USD.
”States and districts that adopt innovative programs and make participation a priority see success in getting breakfast to more low-income children, “ says 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.”