States are now working hard to make sure that every child gets a good breakfast before their school day begins. Studies have shown that children who eat breakfast are more active and alert in school, get better grades, and are more likely to learn and less likely to fall asleep.
Washington D.C. saw the highest percentage increase of children receiving free breakfasts, of any major city in the US in recent years. According to Lyndsay Layton’s report, Washington D.C. saw a 72% increase in the amount of students receiving free breakfasts from 2009 to 2013.
According to Feeding America, a national non-profit organization, New Mexico and the District had the largest percentage of children in homes without a steady food supply, which was about 30% in 2011. Sadly, in the same year, Feeding America indicated that 20% or more of the child population in 36 other states lived in households where they did not get enough to eat.
There have been some key elements as to why the number of free breakfast eaters has gone up. Cafeteria officials noticed a jump in participation in the program in the years after the 2008 economic downturn. As a result of the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, school meals began serving more fresh produce. Also, a growing amount of schools started giving out breakfasts in the classroom instead of the cafeteria, which was an easy change that drove up participation.
In Texas, child hunger is also an issue, writes Community Reports. Because schools are refunded money depending on the number of breakfasts served, a larger student participation rate means more funds for the program. The Center for Public Policy Priorities launched “Making Breakfast Big in Texas.” This program is a new resource for anyone interested in ways that Texas schools can give breakfasts to all of their children while still bringing in funds.
“’In Texas, one in five children is at risk of going hungry, and serving breakfast at school means more children can enjoy a healthy meal and be ready to learn, and parents who are struggling to make ends meet don’t have to worry that their child is going hungry until lunchtime,” said Rachel Cooper, senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. ‘Serving breakfast is a win-win for everyone.’”
In Pennsylvania, there is a different problem with school breakfast, says author Mary Niederberger. Less than one-half of all students who are eligible for free breakfast actually show up for it. They feel like it cuts into their social time that they could be spending with friends before starting their school day.
Pennsylvania school officials are combating this by offering grab-and-go breakfast options such as a muffin, fruit, milk, etc. In this way, students can socialize with friends and still eat breakfast. Some school districts are offering participation contests that include cash prizes and other rewards.