MEDIA CONTACT: Sherry Tomasky
O: 518-436-8832 M: 518-414-2570
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ALBANY, NEW YORK, March 5, 2020 — Hunger Solutions New York’s newly released 2020 New York State School Breakfast Report reveals two areas with the greatest opportunity for growth: secondary schools (middle and high schools); and 15 high-need public school districts.
The report, which includes state and district-level statistics for New York State’s public schools, is based on 2018-19 school year data provided by the New York State Education Department. The report analyzes school breakfast participation to provide a better understanding of, and potential solutions for, the state’s historically stagnant participation in free and reduced-price school breakfast.
“Students who consistently start the school day well-nourished are healthier and more successful in their studies,” said Linda Bopp, executive director of Hunger Solutions New York. “We want those benefits for every student in our state. School breakfast is key to that mission, but too many low-income students are still missing out. While we are encouraged by the progress we have seen statewide since the passage of Governor Cuomo’s No Student Goes Hungry initiative, we also recognize there is much work yet to be done.”
No Student Goes Hungry, passed in 2018, includes a Breakfast After the Bell requirement for high-poverty schools, providing them with funds and technical assistance to offer students breakfast after the start of the school day. In the coming years, this law is predicted to help reverse years of stagnant School Breakfast Program participation.
Hunger Solutions New York’s new school breakfast report outlines key strategies to improve access and increase school breakfast participation, especially among school districts under the Breakfast After the Bell requirement. The report is designed to empower these schools to move breakfast out of the cafeteria and after the start of the school day to ensure all children have the opportunity to start the school day well-nourished and ready to learn.
School breakfast benefits
Hunger affects one in six children in New York State. The federally funded School Breakfast Program helps schools ensure no child starts the school day hungry. Lack of proper nourishment has a profound impact on a child’s health, learning, behavior, and social-emotional development.
School breakfast participation is linked to health and educational benefits including reduced food insecurity, improved dietary intake, better test scores, calmer classrooms, stronger attendance and graduation rates, and improved student health.
According to Hunger Solutions New York’s report, during the 2018-2019 school year, on average, one in four students ate free or reduced-price school breakfast. While that is an increase from the previous year, the program continues to be underutilized.
The report also analyzes the School Breakfast Gap — the disparity between breakfast and lunch participation among students who qualify for free and reduced-price school meals. The national benchmark for strong participation in the School Breakfast Program is to reach 70% of free and reduced-price lunch participants with free and reduced-price breakfast. In the 2018-19 school year, only 50% of the state’s free and reduced-price lunch participants ate breakfast.
The school breakfast analysis revealed two areas with the greatest potential for growth in participation: secondary schools and 15 high-need school districts.
The 15 districts that lag farthest behind on providing low-income students with school breakfast are: New York City Public Schools, Yonkers City School District, Uniondale Union Free School District, Success Academy Charter School, Utica City School District, New Rochelle City School District, Albany City School District, Hempstead Union Free School District, Elmira City School District, White Plains City School District, Valley Stream Central High School District, Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District, Niagara Falls City School District, Middle Country Central School District and Kingston City School District.
During the 2018-2019 school year, those districts made up nearly three-quarters of New York State’s school breakfast gap. If those districts met the goal of feeding 70% of their lunch participants breakfast, New York State would daily feed 163,726 more students free and reduced-price breakfast and draw down an additional $48.3 million dollars in federal reimbursements annually.
For specifics on school breakfast participation rates in all New York State public school districts, click here.
An analysis of participation in free and reduced-price breakfast by type of school revealed secondary school students participate at much lower rates than elementary school students.
Secondary school students skip school breakfast for many reasons, including: lack of appetite first thing in the morning, hectic morning schedules, late buses and other transportation difficulties, a desire to maximize sleep, prioritizing socialization over breakfast, and heightened stigma that school breakfast is for “poor kids.”
Increasing breakfast access
Hunger Solutions New York’s report recommends two methods that have proven most effective for increasing breakfast access: Breakfast After the Bell programming and offering universal breakfast — free breakfast to all students.
Access a full copy of Hunger Solutions New York’s school breakfast report here.
Hunger Solutions New York is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to alleviating hunger. We promote awareness of hunger in communities across the state, awareness about programs that address hunger, full participation in hunger assistance programs for all who are eligible, public policies that contribute to ending hunger, and public awareness of the economic benefit of anti-hunger programs.