A state or local report on breakfast participation can be an effective tool for promoting expansion. Similar to our annual School Breakfast Scorecard, state and local reports can compare school districts’ free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch participation, and calculate the federal dollars lost by not serving more low-income students. Advocates can use this report to identify which districts are effectively reaching low-income students with breakfast, and which are not.
Follow these steps to create a School Breakfast Report for your state using FRAC’s School Breakfast Report Calculator.
Step 1: Getting the Data
Start by requesting School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program participation data by school district from your state agency.
What to Ask For:
While we’ve tried to make the School Breakfast Report Calculator easy to use, it is important to know what data you need in order to begin. Each state is different, so working with state officials to get the data in a simple to use format may be a challenge. Here is what you will need:
- An Excel or Similar File – you must be able to open the file and copy the data into the Tool which is an Excel spreadsheet.
- Data on Just Public School Districts – not data on private schools, religious schools, or alternate programs (like correctional facilities); this data will make your file too unwieldy.
- Total Breakfasts Served by Category – the total number of breakfasts served during the regular school year (September to May) by fee category: Free, Reduced-Price, Paid. If your state is only able to give you the data broken out by month, you will have to add the months together to get a total by category.
- Total Lunches Served by Category – the total number of lunches served during the regular school year (September to May) by fee category: Free, Reduced-Price, Paid. If your state is only able to give you the data broken out by month, you will have to add the months together to get a total by category.
- Days of Service for Breakfast – the total number of days during the school year breakfast was served.
- Days of Service for Lunch – the total number of days during the school year lunch was served.
How to Check for Accuracy:
It is important to double check the data from the state agency to ensure accuracy. There are several steps at different points in the process that can be taken to ensure that the published report accurately reflects participation rates:
- Verify that the data is only for public schools AND only from September to May. If the state agency aggregates the annual breakfast and lunch participation data and inadvertently includes the summer months, this inaccurately produces lower participation rates. If the data is not aggregated and the state agency can only provide the participation information monthly, then data for September through May must be added manually prior to inputting the data into the Data Tool.
- Check the data headings to ensure they reflect the data that was requested. There should be two data sets provided — one for lunch and one for breakfast — and for each there should be columns for the total number of free, reduced-price, and paid meals served. At this point, the accuracy of the data can also be verified by inputting the numbers for a few districts into the Data Tool and then independently confirming those numbers directly with the school district.
- Ask the state agency that provided the data to review the calculated participation rates and provide an opportunity for feedback to help ensure that the report accurately reflects school breakfast participation rates.
Step 2: Analyzing the Data
Once you have received the requested data and taken the recommended steps to ensure accuracy, follow the instructions provided in FRAC’s School Breakfast Report Calculator to input the data. The School Breakfast Report Calculator will automatically:
- Calculate the number of low-income children receiving school breakfast for every 100 receiving school lunch in each school or district;
- Rank the schools or districts based on the school breakfast to lunch participation ratio; and
- Calculate the dollars being lost by schools or districts due to low participation.
Step 3: Compiling the Report
After inputting the data into the calculator and reviewing for accuracy, use the findings to compile a compelling report including success stories from high-ranking districts and identify successful strategies in your state that are working to increase school breakfast participation. Many states have published school breakfast reports in various forms, so you should consider what will work best for your state. For example, states with county-wide school districts may want to present the data in a different manner than states with hundreds of smaller districts.
FRAC has created a State School Breakfast Report Template. Contact a member of the child nutrition team for the latest template, as well as examples of recent state reports.