Hunger Solutions New York recently released its annual statewide report on school breakfast participation, “School Breakfast: Reducing Child Hunger, Bolstering Student Success.”
The report revealed that Lyons Central School District saw a 145 percent increase in school breakfast participation during the 2015-16 school year, and Clyde-Savannah Central School District reported a 107 percent increase over the same year. The districts exceeded the national benchmark of reaching 70 percent of free and reduced-price school lunch participants with breakfast.
Hunger is a constant reality for nearly 1 million children throughout the state. Evidence shows that school breakfast plays a role in supporting the well-being of children by alleviating food insecurity and improving health and educational outcomes.
HSNY releases its report each year to raise awareness about the need for increased school breakfast access and to provide legislators, school administrators and food service directors with methods to achieve that goal.
The report, which includes participation statistics for the state’s public schools, is based on data provided by the New York State Education Department.
Findings reveal that school breakfast continues to be underutilized across the state. While there has been growth in the program, it has been offset by the increasing number of students who qualify to eat school breakfast for free or at a reduced price. In the 2015-16 school year, fewer than one in three students who qualified to eat free or reduced-price breakfast participated in the School Breakfast program.
Lyons and Clyde-Savannah school districts have emerged as statewide examples of school breakfast best practices, demonstrating how schools can leverage available resources to ensure low-income children have access to breakfast. During the 2015-16 school year, the districts implemented the Community Eligibility Provision, a federally-funded resource that allows schools with a high percentage of students from low-income households to offer breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students. The districts also started utilizing alternate breakfast service models like breakfast in the classroom, which make the morning meal easily accessible. Those tactics spurred the sizable increase in breakfast participation.
The School Breakfast Program is a federally-funded meal program for students in public, private and residential child care institutions. On the federal level, it is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, and on the state level, by the New York State Education Department. The program enables schools to offer meals at free and reduced-price rates to children from low-income households and requires them to meet federal nutrition requirements.
HSNY’s school breakfast report includes state-level analysis of school breakfast participation as well as school district-level participation data. It identifies best practices for increasing breakfast participation, highlights successful school districts and outlines action steps to broaden the reach of the School Breakfast program, especially among low-income students.
New York state is among the lowest-performing states in reaching low-income National School Lunch program participants with the School Breakfast program. The state was ranked 42nd in the Food Research and Action Center’s School Breakfast Scorecard for the 2015-16 school year.
A significant amount of federal funding is left on the table due to low school breakfast participation. In the 2015-16 school year, only 45.88 percent of free and reduced-price lunch participants also ate school breakfast. Low breakfast participation in the state resulted in the forfeiture of more than $71 million in federal reimbursements in the 2015-16 school year alone.
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