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Reaching All Children Who Need School Breakfast: The Nutritional and Fiscal Benefits

Uneaten meals represent substantial harm to children’s health and development. When children eat breakfast at school, it reduces hunger, tardiness and nurse visits, and improves nutrition and student achievement. Missed school breakfast meals also add up to tens of millions of dollars in federal child nutrition funding going unclaimed by districts every year.

Each school day in 2009–2010, schools lost at least $1.46 in federal nutrition funding for every child who would have received a free breakfast and $1.16 for every child who would have received a reduced-price breakfast, but was not served. An additional $0.28 in federal funds per child per meal was forfeited if those low-income children attended a “severe need” school—one of the thousands of schools in which at least 40 percent of lunches served were free or reduced-price.

If each district in this survey had provided at least 70 low-income children with breakfast (through the School Breakfast Program) for every 100 low-income children that received lunch (through the National School Lunch Program) in the 2009–2010 school year, an additional 595,649 students would have eaten a healthy school breakfast every day and the 29 districts would have received an additional $151 million in child nutrition funding. Table 3 provides these data for each district in the report, arranged from the highest to the lowest participation ratio. Most of the lost revenue and unserved low-income students are clustered in the largest districts, with nearly one third in New York City alone. The New York City Department of Education would have collected $48.5 million in additional federal funds, and served an additional 189,385 low-income students, if it met the 70:100 ratio. But 21 districts failed to collect at least $1 million. In every district, the unnecessary loss of federal breakfast dollars hurt children and schools.

Food Research and Action Center

School Breakfast in America’s Big Cities

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