Nearly a year into the pandemic, school closures have taken a harsh toll on American kids. Virtual classes have left many behind academically, and losing access to school meals has increased child hunger across the country, as replacement programs have failed to meet rising need. As children return to the classroom, school breakfasts will be critical in both curbing hunger and improving academic outcomes, according to the Food Research & Action Center’s (FRAC) annual Breakfast Scorecard, which was released today.
Breakfast participation rates at U.S. schools rose in the 2017-18 school year, and a report issued Wednesday by the Food Research & Action Center attributed that increase to decisions by schools to serve breakfast in classrooms and to offer meals to all pupils free of charge.
About half as many children take part in the school breakfast program as the more than 30 million who eat a hot meal through the school lunch program, according to USDA's most recent data. The government and the anti-hunger group Food Research and Action Center say that participation in school breakfast grew at a slower rate during the 2016-17 school year than it did in previous years.
With Congress settling into its election year agenda, the School Nutrition Association, speaking for school food directors, says lawmakers should oppose any effort to convert funding for school food programs into block grants.
Beginning next spring, 15 schools in Brooklyn — a sliver of the 1,800 public schools in New York City — will participate in the Meatless Monday campaign by serving vegetarian breakfasts and lunches, city officials announced. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the mayor's residence, Gracie Mansion, also would go meatless for its Monday meals.
The school breakfast program, an adjunct to the longer-established school lunch and school milk programs, is reaching a growing number of low-income children — 12.1 million daily during the 2015-16 school year — says a report from an anti-hunger group.
The Republican leaders of the House Education Committee say they can increase the reimbursement rate for school breakfasts by 2 cents per meal only because they would curtail a provision that allows free meals to all students in low-income neighborhoods. The squeeze on the so-called community eligibility provision has been criticized by anti-hunger groups.
In only its second year of availability nationwide, more than 18,000 schools in high-poverty areas are utilizing the Community Eligibility Provision to provide free breakfast and lunch to all of their students, a total of 8.5 million pupils.