– Scorecard Ranks West Virginia at Top, Utah at Bottom –
WASHINGTON, February 9, 2021 — As school doors re-open, school breakfast will be critical in helping combat childhood hunger and learning loss prompted by COVID-19, says the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), the nation’s leading anti-hunger advocacy group.
According to FRAC’s annual School Breakfast Scorecard released today, more than 12.6 million low-income children received a free or reduced-price school breakfast on an average school day from September through February of the 2019–2020 school year. While this represents a 1.5 percent increase in participation among low-income children over the 2018-2019 school year, more needs to be done to ensure that the School Breakfast Program regains lost ground caused by the pandemic to reach more children in need.
“COVID-19 has caused alarming spikes in childhood hunger all across the country,” said Luis Guardia, president at FRAC. “As students return to the classroom, school breakfast will provide a critical source for children to get the nutrition they need for their health and learning.”
The Scorecard ranks states and the District of Columbia on the rate of participation of low-income children in the School Breakfast Program compared to the rate of participation of low-income children in the National School Lunch Program. Nationally, school breakfast reached 58.4 low-income children for every 100 who participated in school lunch, an increase from 57.3 to 100 in the previous school year.
West Virginia again topped the Scorecard, with Vermont and New Mexico coming in second and third, respectively. West Virginia and Vermont were the only states to meet FRAC’s goal for states to reach 70 low-income children with school breakfast for every 100 who ate school lunch, with West Virginia reaching 84.1 low-income students and Vermont reaching 71.3 low-income students.
“The states that have made steady gains in participation among low-income children are those that have breakfast after the bell models in place, often combined with offering free breakfast to all students,” added Guardia. “We urge more states to promote this approach along with offering free lunch to all students to ensure that students are not hungry at school and are ready to learn.”
Utah was the lowest-performing state on the Scorecard, serving breakfast to fewer than 39.6 low-income students for every 100 who participated in school lunch. An additional six states — Hawaii, Iowa, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Washington — failed to reach even half of the low-income students who ate school lunch in the 2019–2020 school year. These states fell well below the national average of 58.4 low-income children participating in school breakfast for every 100 who ate school lunch.
The Scorecard also details the significant amount of funding that states left on the table in the 2019–2020 school year by not reaching more eligible children with school breakfast. The four largest states — California, Florida, New York, and Texas — would have brought in more than $194 million if they met FRAC’s 70-to-100 goal.
For schools and school districts still experiencing closures, FRAC recommends families utilize the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program, which provides households an EBT card with the value of the free school breakfast and lunch.
Throughout its 50-year history, FRAC has worked to expand the reach of the School Breakfast Program. FRAC’s first Scorecard in 1992 contributed to over 25 states passing legislation requiring schools with a high proportion of low-income students to serve breakfast.
Read the Scorecard report.
For 50 years, the Food Research & Action Center has been the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. To learn more, visit FRAC.org and follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.