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 Hunger Solutions New York Releases Annual Report on Statewide School Breakfast Participation
New York Ranks 35th Nationally in Reaching Low-Income Children

For immediate release: March 8, Albany NY: Hunger Solutions New York today released its annual statewide report on school breakfast participation, Bridging the Gap: Ending Student Hunger with Breakfast After the Bell.

The report, which includes state and district-level statistics for New York State’s public schools, based on 2016-17 school year data provided by the New York State Education Department. The report finds that the number of free and reduced-price breakfasts served through the School Breakfast Program has increased since the prior school year. Yet despite program growth, only 32% of the 1.6 million students who qualified to eat free or reduced-price school breakfast participated in the program in the 2016-17 school year.

According to the Food Research and Action Center’s 2016-17 School Breakfast Scorecard, New York ranks 35th in the nation for statewide participation of low-income children in the School Breakfast Program. Participation in the National School Lunch Program is an indicator of how many students could and should be participating in school breakfast. The national benchmark for strong breakfast participation is to reach 70% of free and reduced price lunch participants with the School Breakfast Program. In the 2016-2017 school year, only 48% of free and reduced-price lunch participants ate school breakfast in New York. This disparity between breakfast and lunch participation known as the “school breakfast gap”. In addition to increased childhood hunger, the gap also has a fiscal implication; failure to reach the national benchmark for breakfast participation has led to the forfeiture of more than $64.9 million in federal reimbursements designated to support school meal programs.

“Progress is being made, but we still have a long way to go to ensure all low-income children in the state reap the many benefits of school breakfast: less hunger, better health, and improved educational outcomes,” said Linda Bopp, Executive Director, Hunger Solutions New York. “It is for these reasons we need statewide policy like that proposed by Governor Cuomo with the No Student Goes Hungry initiative, which will expand Breakfast After the Bell programs in over 1,400 low-income schools across the state”.

Offering Breakfast After the Bell programs that are universal (free for all students) is a proven way to increase access to breakfast and reduce childhood hunger. When breakfast is incorporated into the instructional school day, barriers like transportation, hectic morning schedules and social stigma are removed, and more children are able to eat a nutritious morning meal. Districts throughout New York that have implemented universal Breakfast After the Bell programs have seen significant increases in student participation, and have also measured additional benefits such as lower absenteeism, reduced school nurse visits, fewer distractions in the classroom, and improved student engagement.

The Breakfast After the Bell proposal introduced by Governor Cuomo and currently under consideration by the legislature in the 2018-19 state budget, would substantially increase breakfast participation in New York State’s highest poverty schools. Bridging the Gap: Ending Student Hunger with Breakfast After the Bell outlines the rationale and support for The Governor’s proposal and makes additional recommendations to increase school breakfast participation in more schools across the state. The report also features schools that have made significant progress in their school breakfast programs over the past several years.

To access a full copy of Hunger Solutions New York’s Bridging the Gap: Ending Student Hunger with Breakfast After the Bell, including tables of state- and district-level data, visit: http://www.SchoolMealsHubNY.org

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About Hunger Solutions New York, Inc.
Hunger Solutions New York is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to alleviating hunger. We promote awareness of hunger, participation in federally funded nutrition assistance programs for all who are eligible, and public policies that contribute to ending hunger. We also raise awareness of the health, economic and educational benefits of anti-hunger programs. For more information, visit https://hungersolutionsny.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.