National School Breakfast Program Served
Forty States Improved Participation Rates
Washington, D.C. – Participation in the School Breakfast Program continued its steady increase, with a record 7.7 million low-income children receiving free and reduced-price breakfasts on an average day during the 2005-2006 school year. The Food Research and Action Center’s School Breakfast Scorecard 2006 finds accelerating growth in school breakfast participation by low-income children – up by 622,000 children (8.7 percent) over the past two school years.
The School Breakfast Program began as a pilot program in 1966 with the intent of making sure children started the school day with the boost breakfast can give. Studies continue to demonstrate the links between breakfast and learning, making the case stronger for more schools to expand breakfast participation and make sure all children participate. There are now 44.6 low-income children receiving breakfast for every 100 eating lunch, compared to 31.5 for every 100 when FRAC first began the scorecard in 1991, and 43.1 per 100 during the 2003-2004 school year.
“Reaching a lot more children with breakfast in schools is probably the most cost-effective and fastest way to improve children’s learning and health, improve attendance and, of course, reduce hunger,” said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). “It’s essential that more schools serve breakfast, adopt steps like breakfast in the classroom and reach out to more children.”
To measure the reach of the School Breakfast Program, FRAC compares the number of schools and low-income children that participate breakfast as compared to the broadly utilized National School Lunch Program. In 2005-2006, 83 percent of schools that offered school lunch also had a breakfast program – an increase from 81 percent during the previous school year.
FRAC also sets a goal for states as a way to gauge state progress and the costs of underparticipation in the program. If states were able to increase participation in the program so that there were 60 children eating breakfast for every 100 eating lunch, a very attainable goal, 2.7 million more low-income children would be eating school breakfast around the nation. And, states would have collected an additional $558 million in federal child nutrition funding. As it is, state participation rates range from a high of 58.5 in West Virginia to a low of 29.3 in Wisconsin. The FRAC report gives these and other data for every state.
“We’re glad that schools are seeing and supporting the vital links between education and learning,” said Lynn Parker, FRAC’s director of child nutrition. “Skipping breakfast in the morning can become an unhealthy routine for some children. We’d like to see more schools move to universal breakfast, which provides school breakfast at no charge to all children who wish to eat, more schools offer breakfast in the classroom to ensure children’s access and more districts and states aggressively market the benefits of breakfast to parents and children. These are all proven strategies for success.”
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