School breakfast scorecard shows participation growing; states vary | TSLN.com

School breakfast scorecard shows participation growing; states vary

Participation in the School Breakfast Program has continued to grow, but the rate of growth slowed dramatically during the 2016-17 school year, according to the annual School Breakfast Scorecard released this week by the Food Research & Action Center.

School breakfast is an Agriculture Department program that is part of the national school meals program. It serves mostly low-income students and areas.

"On an average school day during the 2016–2017 school year, nearly 12.2 million low-income students participated in the national School Breakfast Program," FRAC said in a news release.

"While participation from year to year has continued to increase, the rate of growth has slowed, from an average of 390,000 additional students in each of the four preceding years to nearly 70,000 additional students in the 2016–2017 school year."

"The evidence is overwhelming that efforts to increase school breakfast participation pay off — less hunger, better test scores, and improved student health, to name a few," said FRAC President Jim Weill.

"We commend the states and school districts that have implemented effective strategies to increase participation, such as serving breakfast after the bell and offering breakfast at no charge to all students in the school, and we strongly encourage others to follow their lead so that more children may benefit."

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The scorecard ranks states and the District of Columbia on the basis of participation of low-income children in the School Breakfast Program. West Virginia topped the list, with New Mexico and the District of Columbia coming in second and third, respectively. West Virginia and New Mexico also exceeded FRAC's goal for states of reaching 70 low-income children with school breakfast for every 100 who ate school lunch.

Nevada experienced the biggest increase in participation, going from 25th to seventh place among the states, largely due to state legislation enacted in the 2015–2016 school year that mandated high-poverty schools serve breakfast after the bell.

In contrast, Utah served breakfast to fewer than 40 low-income students for every 100 who participated in school lunch, and nine additional states reached less than half of the low-income students who ate school lunch. These states fell way below the national average of 56.7 low-income children participating in the School Breakfast Program for every 100 participating in the National School Lunch Program.

FRAC also released "School Breakfast: Making it Work in Large School Districts," a companion report about how large school districts handle school breakfast.

–The Hagstrom Report