Policy Update: School Breakfast
To increase awareness of children’s health and wellness initiatives, Phipps' Let’s Move Pittsburgh project provides Policy Update, a column on local, state and national health policies that impact you.
A new report from our partners Allies for Children and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank found Allegheny County to be above average for student breakfast consumption. According to the data, 56 out of every 100 students that qualify for free or reduced lunch are also eating breakfast at school. For comparison, the Pennsylvania average is 50 out of every 100 students.1
While these results are promising, Allegheny County still has work to do in order to meet the 2020 goal set by Governor Tom Wolfe, who would like to see at least 60 out of every 100 students who qualify for free and reduced lunch participating in daily school breakfast.1 A 2 million dollar investment was proposed by the Governor in the 2017-2018 budget. If approved, it will help schools to implement several different breakfast options, allowing students to opt for a before-school cafeteria meal, or a “Grab and Go” breakfast where students can select breakfast options from a food cart.1
To be eligible for free or reduced-price meals, children must come from families with incomes “at or below 130% of the poverty level,” as well as children “in families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and families receiving food stamp benefits.”2 In Allegheny County, 46.83 % of students are eligible for free or reduced meals (according to the most recent data from 2015). In 2005, only 33.95% of students met these requirements.3 More than 8.5 million children participate in the School Breakfast Program nationally. All meals served must meet federal nutrition requirements in the areas of bread/grains, fruit/vegetable, meat/meat alternate and fluid milk. Food portions are based on the age of the student.2
Overall, the goal of the School Breakfast Program is to increase the number of children eating breakfast. Chris West, the child nutrition outreach coordinator of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food bank, explains, “Hunger may not affect the same numbers of students in all school districts, but all school districts have at least some students that are eligible for free and reduced price meals. We want to reach these pockets of need and also reduce the stigma associated with eating school breakfast by increasing the numbers of kids starting their school day with a healthy meal.”2
Why is eating breakfast so important? Eating a nutritional breakfast each morning is known to help increase metabolism and stabilize weight, boost energy and cognitive function, decrease daily calorie consumption, and help you feel more awake throughout the day.4 Specific to the school breakfast program, multiple studies have shown a direct correlation between school breakfast and academic performance, improved school attendance, increased attention spans, and a reduction in student anxiety, irritability and aggression.2
Read the full article from Allies for Children, here.
1. "Allegheny County Outperforms Pennsylvania in Reaching Governor Wolf." Allies for Children. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.
2. "PA.gov." School Nutrition Programs. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.
3. "Building Data Yearly Reports: % Students Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch." National School Lunch Program Reports. PA.gov, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.
4. "Breakfast Basics." KidsHealth. Ed. Mary L. Gavin. The Nemours Foundation, July 2015. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.