West Virginia at Number One; Utah Ranks Last
– Companion Report Shows Participation Continues to Grow Among Large School Districts
WASHINGTON, February 14, 2017 — School breakfast participation rates continue to rise across the country, according to the annual School Breakfast Scorecard (pdf), released today by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). The Scorecard ranks states on the basis of participation of low-income children in the national School Breakfast Program. West Virginia tops the list, with New Mexico and the District of Columbia coming in second and third, respectively.
Nationally, on an average day during the 2015–2016 school year, 12.1 million students eligible to receive free and reduced-price school meals participated in school breakfast, an increase of 3.7 percent, or nearly 433,000 children from the previous school year.
“School breakfast is crucial for children’s learning as well as their health,” said Jim Weill, president, Food Research & Action Center. “While we are certainly happy progress is being made, there is still much room for improvement. Federal and state agencies, school districts, and education stakeholders must continue their efforts to increase participation in the School Breakfast Program.”
FRAC measures School Breakfast Program participation by comparing the number of low-income children who eat school breakfast with those who receive school lunch.
Nationally, on an average school day, 56 low-income children participated in the School Breakfast Program for every 100 participating in the National School Lunch Program, up from 54.3 the previous school year and 50.4 percent in the 2011–2012 school year. The top two performers in the Scorecard — West Virginia and New Mexico — exceeded FRAC’s goal of reaching 70 low-income children with school breakfast for every 100 who ate school lunch. In contrast, Utah and New Hampshire each served breakfast to fewer than 41 free or reduced-price eligible students for every 100 who participated in school lunch.
Today, FRAC also released School Breakfast: Making it Work in Large School Districts (pdf), a companion report to the Scorecard. Of the 73 large school districts surveyed for this report, 26 achieved FRAC’s benchmark of serving 70 low-income children with school breakfast for every 100 receiving school lunch. A number of the top-performing school districts — Los Angeles Unified School District and San Antonio Independent School District, among others — serve a particularly high proportion of students from low-income households.
The high-performing states and school districts in both reports generally reflect the implementation of strategies, such as serving breakfast in the classroom and offering breakfast at no charge to all students, that are highly effective at increasing school breakfast participation among low-income students.
The Community Eligibility Provision, which rolled out nationally in the 2014–2015 school year, also is proving to be an effective strategy for driving growth in school breakfast participation. It allows school meals to be served free of charge to all students at high-poverty schools. By spring 2016, there were more than 18,000 high-poverty schools, serving 8.6 million children, offering breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students.
States and school districts that are not maximizing school breakfast participation not only miss out on its anti-hunger, academic, and health benefits, but they also lose significant potential economic activity from the influx of additional federal resources to state and local communities. The Scorecard itemizes the extent to which many states left a significant amount of money on the table by not reaching more eligible children with school breakfast. Large states, such as California, Florida, and New York, have the most to gain by meeting FRAC’s 70 to 100 goal. These states would have collectively brought in an additional $252 million in federal resources had they met the goal.
“FRAC and our national network of anti-hunger advocates will continue to push for greater implementation of effective strategies and smart investments at both the state and school district level that are proving effective in increasing access to the School Breakfast Program,” said Weill.
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The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) is the leading national nonprofit organization working to improve public policies and public-private partnerships to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the United States.