A record 275,300 Missouri students as of the 2014-2015 school year received the most important meal of the day at school. This new number is from the annual national School Breakfast Scorecard released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).
The boost in numbers is reflected nationwide. Missouri ranks 15th in getting free breakfasts to low-income students.
Glenn Koenen is the Hunger Task Force Chair of Empower Missouri.
“Our idea here is that if every child can get a free healthy breakfast and a healthy lunch, that’s a good investment for everyone down the road.”
Schools across the country have been implementing programs to increase such services. In 2010, Springfield Public Schools’ started Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC), and currently has 32 sites.
Amy Gibbons is the director of Nutrition Services for SPS.
“It allows us to serve all the kids in our schools…breakfast, but it’s served inside their classroom. So, they don’t need to physically leave their classroom in the morning…it’s brought right to them and served in the classroom.”
Nationally, 54 low-income children ate school breakfast for every 100 who also ate school lunch, which is an increase from the previous year’s ratio of 53-to-100. Just a decade ago, this ratio was 43-to-100.
Koenen explains that “the numbers are improving because our educators are doing a better job now of letting families know that their kids qualify for the free breakfast and lunches at the school.” Koenen also says that the program itself has grown “because people (understand) now that they ought to do what’s best for their kids, and that sometimes it’s okay to admit you need help.”
The FRAC scorecard reports that if 70 out of 100 eligible low-income students are fed, schools in Missouri could receive an additional $12.6 million in federal funds for school breakfasts.
Empower Missouri’s Glenn Koenen says that if a particular family qualifies for free or reduced price lunch, the children are also able to get a breakfast for either a low charge or for free. The student would be given a special card that allows them to get their food for free, but go through the breakfast or lunch line just like all the other children. The student would be given a special card that allows them to get their food for free, but go through the breakfast or lunch line just like all the other children.
In Springfield, things work a bit differently. BIC is provided to all students, regardless of their family situation. In this way, SPS can reach all kids who are coming to school hungry without ostracizing them. Even the teachers and all the adults working in the schools receive free breakfast.
This can be a bit intimidating at first, since most teachers aren’t used to having food in the classroom at all. However, Kim Keller, the Nutrition Services operations director at SPS, says it actually works out well.
“I think if you were to go talk to the teachers that have done it now for several years, they’d tell you what a good thing it is for the kids to eat breakfast.”
The BIC program is continuing to grow. According to Keller and Gibbons, the district has started to provide breakfast in the classroom during summer school as well for the current BIC sites. Along with this, Springfield was the first public school district in Missouri to have a BIC program at a high school.
Gibbons adds, “It’s a proven fact that a good breakfast actually helps improve their performance throughout the school day and their learning,” and the improved math, reading, and test skills reported have shown this to be true.
To see the full School Breakfast Scorecard, click here.