Research suggests new approaches for free breakfast access
- Less than 33% of students eligible for free breakfast programs in the State of New York are taking advantage of the program, a startling statistic given the data around how the first meal of the day dramatically impacts alertness, concentration, memory and confidence in the classroom.
- According to a recent study of the the state’s free meal trends, student advocates in Buffalo Public Schools say that only about 62% of students participate in the program, and that officials are working regularly to reduce the stigma associated with receiving the benefit.
- The report recommends universal breakfast programs for schools with a high enrollment of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, and for classrooms to allow students to eat breakfast in the classroom to accommodate late arrivals.
One idea for school districts is to better coordinate with transportation hubs serving students beyond walking distance of the schools, to ensure that students can arrive in time for free breakfast without it interfering with classroom learning. This kind of planning can dramatically reduce embarrassment for students and increase efficiency for teachers working to coordinate eating and student focus in the midst of food being served, or with a majority of students struggling to learn while hungry.
It also should spur conversations about later start times for younger students. If the true objective is an optimal learning environment, then students should not only arrive on time to eat, but to come into school well-rested and prepared to stay later to receive full instruction and exposure to subjects and quality mentoring.