- The School Breakfast Scorecard, released by Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), reports 12.4 million children received a free or reduced-price school breakfast on an average school day in the 2018-19 school year, down 6,000 students — a relatively small percentage — from the prior year.
- For every 100 students who participated in the National School Lunch program, 57.5 students participated in the School Breakfast Program.
- School breakfast participation among low-income students flattened, while overall participation in school breakfast grew, and school lunch participation decreased. These changes are attributed in the report to:
- A growing economy shrinking the number of low-income students eligible to receive free or reduced-price school meals
- Decreased school enrollment overall
- Natural disasters impacting school nutrition operations
In 2018-19, 14.6 million children ate breakfast at school, an overall increase of 46,000 students from the previous school year. The agency also released "School Breakfast: Making it Work in Large School Districts," which looks at school breakfast participation, trends and strategies for reaching more low-income children in 76 of the nation’s largest school districts.
In an effort to up student participation in breakfast programs, a Utah advocacy organization wants schools to offer free breakfast after the first bell, allow students with long bus rides to eat during their commute, and give older students the opportunity to get a second breakfast. The changes would be aimed at increasing school breakfast program participation in the state, where only 39% of students eat breakfast at school. Advocates of these initiatives say if breakfast is only served before school starts, low-income students may miss out.
There is also evidence providing free breakfast at school lowers the suspension rates. A study in the National Bureau of Economic Research estimates elementary students whose schools participated in the Community Eligibility Provision had a third of a percentage less of a chance to receive an out-of-school suspension. That reduction is about half of a percentage point for middle school students. Previous studies of the program showed modest benefits to academic performance and student health.
The private sector is pitching in by supplying free breakfast to students. Kellogg, best known for its breakfast brands, funded a breakfast cart that goes into a common area where students grab breakfast while socializing with their friends. Feeding students at breakfast and lunch is a good start, says Stephanie Slingerland, director of philanthropy and social impact at Kellogg. The next challenge is providing dinners. She says after-school meals are on the horizon as the next hunger problem to tackle.