Across the country, millions of American children struggle to get the food they need, a crisis that impacts educational attainment and their futures. But even though about 21 million American children are eligible for school programs that provide them with free or reduced-price meals, only half are regularly eating breakfast at school, according to a new study on food insecurity and childhood hunger.
Only 11 million of the 21 million children eligible for school lunches and breakfasts eat breakfast at school, according to the study from Deloitte and the No King Hungry campaign:
Connecting eligible children to the breakfast program would enhance academic achievement and school attendance, according to the authors. If 70 percent of the students who were eating school lunches also ate school breakfasts, there would be 3.2 million students achieving higher standardized test scores, 4.8 million fewer absences, and 807,000 more high school graduates, the study says.
No Kid Hungry suggests that to expand access to more eligible children, schools should move their breakfast programs out of the cafeteria and into the classroom, making breakfast part of the regular school day. The study examined schools in Maryland that have made that transition and found that serving breakfast in classrooms increased participation from 46 percent in 2010 to 56 percent in 2012. Schools that served breakfast in classrooms, it found, saw a decline in chronic absenteeism, while students who received breakfast in the classroom were 12.5 percent more likely to achieve proficiency on standardized tests.