WASHINGTON, August 16, 2017 — If you find it difficult to concentrate when you’re hungry, imagine how children without enough food to eat feel as they return to school. We know there are so many great stories waiting to be written on the importance of school breakfast and afterschool meals, the need to end lunch shaming, and of course, preserving essential nutrition programs in the federal budget. We hope these ideas help inspire your next story.

School Breakfast
Tight family budgets and busy morning schedules can mean many students arrive at school hungry and not ready to learn. Breakfast is essential for children’s learning and health and the School Breakfast Program helps fill this void for millions of children every school day. How does your state rank in school breakfast participation? Check out FRAC’s School Breakfast Scorecard, which ranks states on the basis of participation of low-income children in the national School Breakfast Program. And learn how schools can increase school breakfast participation by offering breakfast after the bell.

Community Eligibility
Community eligibility allows high-poverty schools to offer both breakfast and lunch to all students, which boosts school breakfast and lunch participation and reduces the stigma that school meal programs are only for low-income children. Since all students receive school meals at no charge, community eligibility effectively ends lunch shaming, further mitigating stigma.

The program launched nationwide in the 2014-15 school year and in just three years, more than half — 55 percent — of all eligible schools now have taken the smart step of adopting the program. Use our community eligibility database to see which schools in your state and district have adopted community eligibility.

Lunch Shaming
Lunch shaming — when a student is denied a lunch in the cafeteria or otherwise subject to embarrassment because he or she does not have the money to pay — has been a topic of growing concern recently, with many educators, parents, and legislators decrying such practices (throwing a child’s meal away, giving him or her a cheese sandwich instead of a hot lunch, or stamping a child’s hand with “I owe lunch money”). The USDA requires that all schools have policies for what to do when kids can’t pay, and these must be communicated to parents. What is your school district’s policy? Does it include best practices to protect children from stigma and make sure that students get the nutrition they need to learn?

Afterschool Meals
The president’s 2018 budget proposes to zero out funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), the largest federal funding source for afterschool and summer programs. This would eliminate the funding for afterschool and summer programs that serve 1.6 million children, and would have a direct negative domino effect on low-income children’s access to nutritious meals and snacks served after school with money from USDA-funded programs, which play an important role in reducing hunger and contributing to healthy growth and development.

Fiscal Year 2018 Budget: School Meals and SNAP
Free school meals are a longstanding and highly effective poverty reduction strategy. And they are under attack in the House Budget Committee’s proposed FY 2018 budget resolution, which includes a potential $1.6 billion cut to community eligibility. Nationwide, this harmful cut could impact an estimated 8,300 schools with over 3.8 million students currently participating, and preclude another 12,800 schools with over 6.2 million students from adopting community eligibility in the future.

As children go back to school they are threatened as well by proposals to slash food stamp spending. Both the president and the House Budget Committee have proposed deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). More than two in five (43 percent) of all SNAP households include children. SNAP serves as the first line of defense against hunger for low-income children and families in rural, suburban, and urban areas alike, as FRAC’s SNAP Maps show. It is unacceptable that this proven and effective program is under attack.

Contact Emily Pickren at epickren@frac.org or 202-640-1118 to arrange an interview with one of FRAC’s experts:

James D. Weill, president
Crystal Fitzsimons, director of school and out-of-school time programs

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The Food Research & Action Center is the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. To learn more, follow us @fractweets.