JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.- Missouri is doing a better job than most states at getting free, nutritious breakfasts and lunches to school kids. Supporters of the school meals program, including Empower Missouri, want to help Missouri build on that success and get good food to thousands more kids every school day.
According to the School Breakfast Scorecard, released today by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC, a national anti-hunger advocacy group), during the last school year, 226,000 Missouri students received breakfast at school, a small increase from the 2016/2017 school year. For comparison, each day 372,000 kids received school lunches.
Currently, Missouri ranks 15th on a national list of breakfast providers. Last year, a higher rate of Missouri students received breakfasts when compared to Illinois, Iowa and Kansas, for example. Missouri’s ranking can be attributed in large part to the implementation of community eligibility, which allows high-poverty schools to offer breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students and alternative breakfast models that move breakfast out of the cafeteria and to after the first bell. Offering breakfast in the classroom and after the start of the school day helps schools and students overcome common barriers such as late bus arrivals, tight household budgets, and the stigma associated with school breakfast as being only for children from families with low incomes. Used together, these two approaches can dramatically move the needle on school breakfast participation.
Studies have shown that when students begin the day with a healthy breakfast they do better in school. Federal support for the breakfasts means schools can add this important meal with virtually no additional local funds.
“We’re glad that Missouri is making progress at getting healthy food to more kids,” Empower Missouri Executive Director Jeanette Mott Oxford said. “Making life better for children ought to always be our most important job. We want our state to build on this success and pledge to work with our friends to make breakfast available to even more Missouri students.”
That success could mean a boost in funding for Missouri. For example, by expanding the breakfast program to reach just 70% of those receiving lunches, Missouri would reach 38,000 more students each day with a healthy breakfast. In reaching that goal, an additional $9.5 million a year in federal funds would be invested in Missouri schools.
“Breakfast at school is a program that works, so let’s keep making it better,” stated Glenn Koenen, retired food pantry director and leader of the Hunger Issues Team at Empower Missouri.
About the School Breakfast Scorecard
This report measures the reach of the School Breakfast Program in the 2017–2018 school year — nationally and in each state — based on a variety of metrics, and examines the impact of select trends and policies on program participation. On an average school day, nearly 12.5 million low-income children participated in the School Breakfast Program in school year 2017–2018. Four million more low-income children received school breakfast on an average day in the 2017–2018 school year than a decade prior in the 2007–2008 school year. Read the School Breakfast Scorecard in full.