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Numbers of Students receiving School Breakfast have risen, but some Schools drop out; New York City lags behind

By Staff Reporter
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(Albany, NY) – Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) recently released its annual national school breakfast report, which found that, on an average school day in 2013-2014; 556,848 low-income children in New York state participated in school breakfast, an increase of 10,000 students from the previous year.

However, only 5,745 schools participated in the breakfast program, a decrease of more than 200 schools.

In addition, New York City was the second worst, large city in the country in terms of breakfast participation.

As a result, advocates said they are disappointed New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio still has not mandated schools offer the Breakfast in the Classroom program; despite saying he would do so if elected.

The Syracuse City School District ranked 11 in the country among large districts, with 71.5 percent of its students who received free lunch, also getting breakfast; but, in NYC, according to the report, only 35.4 percent did.

“Government asks if we can afford to feed those children in need of school breakfast,” said Susan Zimet, executive director, Hunger Action Network NYS, relative to New York City. “We ask, how can you afford not to feed them? Every day hundreds of thousands of low-income New York City children unnecessarily go without breakfast is another day we adults failed that child. We need to feed our children before we worry about testing them. Children are not statistics, and a line in the budget. They are our future. Before you tell us there is no money to feed our children, I would ask the city administration to go into a classroom and look into the eyes of the kids going hungry, and then tell them to their faces, the city doesn’t have money to feed them.”

The School Breakfast Scorecard measures the success of the School Breakfast Program at the national and state levels.

Subsequently, the FRAC report found less than half (45.4) of low-income children in New York ate school breakfast, for every 100 that received free or reduced-price lunch during the 2013-2014 school year, which is a slight increase from 44.1 during the 2012-2013 school year.

Nationally, 53 low-income children ate school breakfast for every 100 who also ate school lunch, an increase from the previous school year’s ratio of 52:100, which translated into 320,000 more low-income children eating school breakfast, and was a large jump from the 43:100 ratio of a decade earlier.

Officials said low participation means missed meals for hungry children, and missed federal nutrition dollars for New York.

However, increasing participation to 70 low-income children receiving breakfast for every 100 who eat lunch is a goal Syracuse, and some states, have met, which would lead to an additional 300,000 low-income children eating breakfast each day, and an additional $77.9 million in federal child nutrition funding.

“Good progress is being made, but too many children in our state are missing out on school breakfast and its benefits for health and education,” said Zimet. “The upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization, continued expansion of Community Eligibility, which allows high-poverty schools to offer free meals, more use of breakfast in the classroom programs, and continued work at the state level, all provide opportunities for policymakers, advocates, state agencies and school districts to work together to make a good program even better for children.”

Additionally, a companion analysis by FRAC, “School Breakfast: Making it Work in Large School Districts,” has examined school breakfast participation rates in 2013-2014, and policies in 62 school districts across the country, including New York City and Syracuse.

According to the report, several strategies continue to demonstrate their ability to contribute to higher participation rates.

In addition, the top 10 performing districts have all offered breakfast at no charge, to all students, and extensively utilized alternative school breakfast service models, such as Breakfast in the Classroom, throughout all, or most, of their schools.

All of these districts have surpassed FRAC’s goal of reaching 70 percent of low-income children with school breakfast for every 100 participating in school lunch.

New York City offers the program as well, according to officials, but it is voluntary for the schools to participate; and only about a quarter do.

Visit www.frac.org to view the reports.

Additional information regarding the reports:

•  FRAC measures the reach of the School Breakfast Program by comparing the number of low-income children that participate in breakfast to those that participate in school lunch.
•  The School Breakfast Scorecard contains national and state data for breakfast participation.
•  School Breakfast Making it Work in Large School Districts surveys 62 large, primarily urban school districts across the country on school breakfast participation rates and policies during the school year.