Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Educators and physicians alike have talked for years about how kids learn better when properly nourished. A new report takes a look inside Pennsylvania schools to see how school breakfast programs are serving low-income pupils. The School Breakfast Scorecard is released each year by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).
Julie Zaebst, policy manager with the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, says the latest numbers show an upside and a downside to the equation.
"Last year they found that 42.6 percent of students who ate school lunch also ate school breakfast, and this year that figure has increased to 44 percent. The bad news is that the state still lags behind the national average of fifty percent."
Zaebst says that in order to boost the numbers further, schools should increase access to school breakfast for pupils by taking breakfast out of the cafeteria and expanding it to classrooms and even hallways.
"For younger students, they walk into their classroom in the morning and breakfast is available to them then. And for older students, 'grab and go' programs - where they get breakfast in the hallway or other locations and take it to their first-period class - has been really successful."
Crystal FitzSimons, director of school and out-of-school time programs for the Food Research and Action Center, says schools benefit by getting more eligible students involved.
"One of the best ways to run a more cost-effective program is actually to increase participation, because then schools are able to benefit from the economies of scale that that creates."
In the bigger picture, more than half of all low-income children who took part in school lunch also ate school breakfast, and more than 90 percent of schools that operate the National School Lunch Program also offered the School Breakfast Program. Overall, more than 10.5 million children received a free or reduced-price breakfast each school day during the 2011-2012 school year, an increase of nearly 740,000 from the previous year.
See the full report at FRAC.org.