Expanding School Breakfast Participation Means More Meals for Children and More Federal Dollars
Annual Report Charts D.C.’s Participation in School Breakfast Program
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
JANUARY 14, 2009
CONTACT: Jen Adach
PHONE: 202-986-2200 x3018
Washington, D.C. – January 14, 2009 – Participation in D.C.’s School Breakfast Program grew to include 21,008 children during the 2007-2008 school year, an increase of 11 percent over the previous school year, but the program still reaches just half of the District’s eligible low-income children. For every 100 low-income students that received school lunch in the District, only 50 participated in school breakfast, according to the Food Research and Action Center’s annual School Breakfast Scorecard.
Nationally, 46 low-income children participated in school breakfast for every 100 that received lunch. D.C.’s performance therefore was slightly better than the national rate and the average for states, which itself is far too low. The Scorecard is issued annually by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) to measure national and state trends in school breakfast. FRAC measures the reach of the School Breakfast Program by comparing the number of low-income children receiving school breakfast to the number of such children receiving school lunch.
FRAC also issued a separate report, Breakfast in America’s Big Cities, which looked at breakfast participation in 19 large urban districts during the 2006-2007 school year. The District of Columbia Public Schools were included in the report, and ranked 9th out of the 19 urban school districts. Participation ranged from a high of 89 percent in Newark to a low of 29 percent in Chicago.
If D.C. were able to establish accessible breakfast programs so that participation reached 70 low-income children with breakfast for every 100 low-income children that ate lunch, a goal reached by a number of urban school districts, 6,370 more District low-income children would start the day with a healthy breakfast, and D.C. would gain an additional $1.4 million in federal funding.
“At a time when more families are struggling and their hardships are increasing, it is imperative to expand the reach of the School Breakfast Program,” said Alexandra Ashbrook, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions, an initiative of FRAC. “We need to pull out all the stops to make sure that the most important meal of the day reaches thousands more low-income children.”
Ashbrook also pointed out that this goal is reachable in D.C. even in difficult budget times, since nearly 100 percent of breakfast costs for low-income children are paid by the federal government.
According to FRAC’s city report, school districts that offer breakfast free to all students (also known as universal breakfast), serve breakfast in the classroom at the start of the school day rather than in the cafeteria, or offer bagged “grab and go” breakfasts from carts in the hallway generally experience higher rates of breakfast participation. In fact, the three top performing school districts – Newark (N.J.), Boston (Mass.), and Minneapolis (Minn.) – all operated programs that served breakfast in the classroom at no charge to the students.
“D.C. Public Schools have taken a positive step forward by offering breakfast free to all students with the adoption of a universal breakfast program, but its rank in the middle of the pack among urban school districts shows that the District needs to take a more aggressive approach to expand school breakfast participation,” said Ashbrook. “The key next step is in-classroom breakfast.”
With its “Free Breakfast – That’s What’s Up” campaign, D.C. Hunger Solutions is working with D.C. Public Schools and the charter school community to provide outreach on the breakfast program, as well as assistance with starting up classroom breakfast programs.
In its national report (School Breakfast Scorecard), FRAC encouraged school districts to implement “breakfast in the classroom” programs, and also outlined a series of other recommendations that the Administration, Congress, states, and school districts can take to improve participation in the School Breakfast Program. Chief among these recommendations was a call for Congress to increase federal funds for the program in the coming Child Nutrition Reauthorization to help expand participation, bolster outreach efforts, and improve nutrition quality.
“This is a time of growing hunger and economic distress around the nation, but there are important opportunities to respond for both the short-term and the long-term. The coming economic recovery bill and this year’s Child Nutrition Reauthorization are such opportunities. Congress must take steps to help low-income families in both, and that includes strategies to increase breakfast participation, as well as boost investments in other nutrition programs,” said Jim Weill, FRAC president. “School breakfast improves children's learning and behavior, fosters healthy eating habits, and reduces hunger. It’s one of the best and most cost-effective investments we can make to ensure our nation’s future.”
D.C. Hunger Solutions joined FRAC in calling on Congress to increase funding for school meals and other child nutrition programs. All of the child nutrition programs, including the School Breakfast Program, are set to be reauthorized this year as part of Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Congress is anticipated to start reviewing the programs as early as February.
About the reports:
The full report, School Breakfast Scorecard, is available at www.frac.org/pdf/breakfast08.pdf. 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. Nationally, the School Breakfast Program has grown to include 8.5 million low-income children, an increase of four percent from the previous school year.
For Breakfast in America’s Big Cities, FRAC surveyed 19 large urban school districts across the country on school breakfast participation rates and policies. For urban school districts, FRAC sets a participation goal of 70 percent. The full report is available at www.frac.org/pdf/urbanbreakfast08.pdf.
D.C. Hunger Solutions, a project of the Food Research and Action Center, is dedicated to fighting hunger and obesity and improving the nutrition, health and well-being of children, youth and families in the District of Columbia.
The Food Research and Action Center (www.frac.org) is the leading national organization working for more effective public and private policies to eradicate domestic hunger and undernutrition.