Over 12.1 million low-income children received free or reduced-price school breakfast in the US every day in the 2015-2016 school year. Compared to the 2014-2015 school year, this is an increase of 3.7%, or 433,000 children. In Washington State the number of students receiving free or reduced-price school breakfast barely changed compared to the previous school year. This is the latest data available in the Food Research and Action Center’s (FRAC) Annual School Breakfast Scorecard, released last month, which measures how many low-income students participate in the federally funded School Breakfast Program.
More commonly well-known than the School Breakfast Program is the National School Lunch Program, which served 21.6 million low-income children during the 2015-2016 school year. That means that just over half the number of kids eating lunch are also getting breakfast at school. Once again, Washington State is in the bottom ten states for breakfast participation with only 45.1% of students getting lunch also getting breakfast and the number of schools participating in the School Breakfast Program actually decreased in the past year. FRAC’s target for states is 70% and the highest-ranking state, West Virginia, providing 83.9% of low-income students receiving lunch also receiving breakfast.. Washington continues to fail to provide its low-income children with breakfast to begin each school day off on the right foot. Low breakfast participation means students lose out on an important meal to start the day and communities miss out on the economic impact to the local economy from the additional federal funding received.
So where do we go from here? One place to start is Breakfast After the Bell. Students who eat breakfast every day have improved health, academic achievement, higher test scores, better attendance, and fewer discipline problems. Breakfast After the Bell removes breakfast from the cafeteria and integrates it into the school day, thereby removing barriers such as social stigma, running late, and inconvenience.
Many states across the country have adopted Breakfast After the Bell legislation and we’re at it once again in Washington. House Bill 1508 includes provisions for Breakfast After the Bell – it has passed the House of Representatives and now is waiting for a hearing in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education committee. Sign up for Advocacy Alerts and keep an eye out for opportunities to support this legislation moving forward.