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More Low-Income Children Receiving School Meals, But Breakfast Participation Still Falling Short
New Healthy Schools Act a Solution to Low Participation, Says D.C. Hunger Solutions
Washington, D.C. – January 13, 2010 – While more low-income children participated in the school breakfast and school lunch programs in Washington, D.C. schools, the number of children eating school breakfast continues to fall short when compared to the number of those eating school lunch finds a new national report released today. For every 100 low-income D.C. children that ate school lunch, only 48 also ate school breakfast during the 2009-2010 school year.
The School Breakfast Scorecard (pdf), released annually by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), measures the reach of the School Breakfast Program nationally and by state, evaluating state performance by comparing the number of low-income children receiving school breakfast to the number of such children receiving school lunch. D.C. served only 48 low-income children breakfast for every 100 that received lunch in 2009-2010. The best performing states reached about 60 per 100, and the national average was 47 low-income children participating in school breakfast for every 100 that received lunch.
Low participation means missed meals for children and missed dollars for states. If participation in D.C. rose to 60 low-income children eating federally-funded school breakfast for every 100 low-income children eating lunch, 4,332 more low-income children would start the day with a healthy breakfast and the state would gain an additional $1,041,181 in federal funding. Two states, New Mexico and South Carolina, already exceed this goal and demonstrate that this is eminently achievable.
In D.C., the number of children eating breakfast at school increased from 15,740 during the 2008-2009 school year to 18,051 during the 2009-2010 school year, but it was outpaced by growth in the lunch program which rose from 33,429 to 37,706 over the same time period.
“The fact that more low-income children are eating school meals clearly shows just how needed these programs are, and demonstrates the work done by schools and advocates to ensure families know about these nutrition programs,” said Alexandra Ashbrook, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions. “But it is increasingly important to increase the number of children eating breakfast so it catches up with the number of children eating lunch.”
Ashbrook pointed to the recent Healthy Schools Act as a way to boost participation in the breakfast program. The Act, passed in May 2010, supports breakfast programs by making school breakfast free to all D.C. public school and public charter school students and mandates that elementary schools with 40 percent of more low-income children serve breakfast in the classroom.
“There’s a lot of work ahead for District schools to get even more children eating school breakfast, but the Healthy Schools Act already is making a big difference. The first month of this school year alone saw an increase of 29 percent with an additional 5,900 children eating school breakfast each day compared with the same month last school year,” said Ashbrook.
“When children are in school, they are in our care and it is our responsibility to ensure they have a healthy environment and access to nutritious meals,” said Councilmember Mary Cheh, who co-introduced the Healthy Schools Act along with then-Council Chair Vincent Gray. “Higher participation in school breakfast translates to healthier children who start the day ready to learn. The Healthy Schools Act aims to improve participation by supporting breakfast program models that work. It’s a win-win for our children’s education and health.”
Nationally, participation in the School Breakfast Program grew to include 9.4 million low-income children during the 2009-2010 school year, an increase of 663,000 low-income children over the previous school year – and the largest increase since FRAC began tracking participation in 1991. Over the past two school years, participation in breakfast grew by nearly 1.2 million low-income children. The 2009-2010 school year also saw the largest increase in lunch participation recorded by FRAC; the program reached nearly 20 million low-income children on an average school day.
About This Report
The full report, School Breakfast Scorecard, is available at www.frac.org. To measure the reach of the School Breakfast Program, FRAC compares the number of schools and low-income children that participate in breakfast to those that participate in the National School Lunch Program. FRAC also sets a participation goal of reaching 60 children with breakfast for every 100 receiving lunch as a way to gauge state progress and the costs of underparticipation in the program. Nationally, the School Breakfast Program has grown to include 9.4 million low-income children..