In recent years, there have been efforts to increase school breakfast participation in Utah; however, these efforts have not changed Utah’s consistently low participation rate that has remained the same for the previous three school years.
According to a new report from the Utah Breakfast Expansion Team (UBET), during the 2014-2015 school year, 34.3 low-income children in Utah ate school breakfast for every 100 that received free or reduced-price lunch.
The report, Starting the Day Right:Best Practices for Increasing School Breakfast Participation in Utah Schools, measures the reach of the School Breakfast Program throughout the state by comparing the number of low-income children eating school lunch to the number of such children eating school breakfast during the 2014-2015 school year.
“Now is the time for Utah schools to make breakfast more accessible to students. Expanding participation in breakfast is one of the most effective ways of promoting health and academic success for low-income children,” said Marti Woolford of Utahns Against Hunger, and chair of UBET. “Improving participation rates will lead to healthier children who are ready to learn because they started the day with a nutritious breakfast.”
Low school breakfast participation in SBP means missed meals for hungry children and missed dollars for Utah. If Utah could increase breakfast participation to reach 70 children for every 100 that eat lunch, Woolford estimates that an additional 50,417 low-income children would be added to the breakfast program and the state would receive more than $14 million in added child nutrition funding.
The Starting the Day Right report provides valuable school breakfast participation data that can help in assessing the success of current School Breakfast Programs. The report also describes alternative breakfast delivery models that can help increase school breakfast participation. Chief among them is moving breakfast service out of the cafeteria and into the classroom after the start of the school day. In their annual report, the national Food Research & Action Center looked at school breakfast participation rates from across the country. Their report found that school districts with the highest participation rates have programs that allow students to eat breakfast in their classrooms at the beginning of the school day.
Utah schools can apply for a Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom grantto help increase breakfast participation. The grant is targeted to help high-need schools and districts cover the upfront costs associated with the startup and implementation of breakfast in the classroom, such as purchasing equipment, outreach efforts to parents, program promotion, and other related expenses. More information about the grant can be found in the report.
“School breakfast improves nutrition and empowers children to learn. Now is the time for Utah to make increasing participation in school breakfast a priority,” said Woolford. “Utah can do more for its low-income children, and making sure they begin the day with a full belly is a good place to start.”
The Utah Breakfast Expansion Team was formed in 2014 in response to Utah’s consistently low participation in the School Breakfast Program. UBET works to increase participation in the program among low-income students.UBET is a collaboration of Utahns Against Hunger, Utah State Board of Education, Utah State University Extension-Food $ense, Utah State University Extension Salt Lake County and Wayne County, Dairy Council of Utah Nevada, Utah Department of Health-Healthy Living Through Environment, Policy & Improved Clinic Care Program, Brigham Young University-Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Science and Health Sciences, and Granite Education Association.