Many D.C. children in public and public charter schools are missing out on the School Breakfast Program, according to a recent report by D.C. Hunger Solutions.
Less than half of schools reached the goal of 70% student participation in the breakfast program during the 2021 to 2022 academic year.
School breakfast is essential to helping students thrive, according to a study by the Journal of Nutrition. Participation in the program is linked to better test performance, fewer cases of tardiness and absenteeism and fewer disciplinary problems. The School Breakfast Program is especially beneficial to students from low-income families, according to the report.
“We know that children can’t learn on an empty stomach,” said LaMonika Jones, the interim director of D.C. Hunger Solutions. “While there have been some improvements, many families are still recovering from the fallout of the pandemic and have been thrust into a hunger cliff amid the ending of pandemic-era waivers and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program emergency allotments. Now more than ever, school breakfast is needed to reduce child hunger across the District.”
Any public school, public charter school, nonprofit private school or residential child care institution is eligible to participate in the breakfast program and receive federal funds for taking part — and, any student can participate. The Healthy Schools Act of 2010 also mandates every student receives school breakfast for free in the District.
To increase participation in the School Breakfast Program, the report recommends a “breakfast after the bell” model. This could include providing breakfast in the classroom at the beginning of the day, implementing a “grab and go” system where students can pick up breakfast from the cafeteria and eat it in the classroom or allow students time to pick up breakfast after their first period.