Too Many of Florida’s Students Start the Day without Breakfast; Increasing Breakfast Participation Must be Priority
Contact: Dr. Debra Susie, Executive Director, Florida Impact, 850-841-0695 or Kirsten Bokenkamp, Communications Associate, FRAC, firstname.lastname@example.org; 202-986-2200 x 3974
Tallahassee – February 19, 2013 – More children in Florida are starting the day with school breakfast, but the state is still missing more than half of eligible children. A new report released today by Florida Impact and the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) found that Florida schools served 46.9 low-income children breakfast for every 100 that received lunch during the 2011-2012 school year -- an increase from the previous school year when 45.5:100 received breakfast, but still lagging behind the national average of more than 50 low-income students eating breakfast for every 100 that received lunch.
According to the report, A Good Start for Learning: School Breakfast Participation in Florida, increasing participation in the School Breakfast Program so that 70 low-income children eat breakfast for every 100 who eat school lunch would feed an additional 264,637 low-income children statewide and bring in an additional $67 million in federal funding to the state. Higher participation also reaps countless rewards for children and schools. Research demonstrates school breakfast’s contribution to improved school attendance and student behavior, higher learning and test scores, and improved student health.
The report measures the reach of the School Breakfast Program throughout the state and in each of Florida’s 67 county school districts by comparing the number of low-income children eating school lunch to the number of such children eating school breakfast. Participation rates ranged from 87.3 low-income children eating school breakfast to 100 eating school lunch in Glades County to a low of 31 to 100 in Sarasota County. Franklin, Highlands, Hamilton, and Jefferson rounded out the top five districts for participation, while DeSoto, Dade, Clay and Wakulla were in the bottom five.
“While some counties have been successful, Florida must make breakfast more accessible to students. Expanding participation in breakfast is one of the most effective ways of promoting health and academic success for low-income children,” said Dr. Debra Susie, Florida Impact’s Executive Director. “Improving participation rates will lead to healthier and hunger-free children who start the day ready to learn.”
“Every school district in Florida should examine its breakfast program and look at ways to reach even more children with a healthy morning meal,” said Crystal FitzSimons, FRAC’s Director of School and Out-of-School Time Programs. “Our research shows that higher participation rates are seen with programs that get breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the hands of children, whether that’s moving to breakfast in the classroom or using other creative ways to serve breakfast.”
The report highlights a number of strategies that districts can implement to increase participation rates. Chief among them is offering breakfast free of charge to all children, as well as moving breakfast service out of the cafeteria and into the classroom, the bus loop, or using other service alternatives. A report on national school breakfast participation and trends released by the Food Research and Action Center last month found that school districts across the country with the highest participation rates all have large-scale programs that allow students to eat breakfast in their classrooms at the beginning of the school day.
“Many counties in Florida are making progress, but additional steps need to be taken to get more children starting the day with a healthy morning meal,” said Susie. “Florida Impact and FRAC are joining together and urging school leaders across the state to make increased participation in school breakfast a priority. This is a program that fights hunger, improves nutrition, and empowers children to learn. Florida can – and must – do more for its low-income children.”
Click here to see the report.