Less than 50% of low-income IL kids get healthful breakfast
March 1, 2019

According to a new report disseminated by the Illinois Hunger Coalition, the number of low-income Illinois students participating in the School Breakfast Program increased during the 2017-18 school year. Yet fewer than half of the state’s low-income children participate in the program, which ensures healthy food access.

For every 100 low-income students participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), just 49.7% participated in breakfast in the 2017-2018 school year, a 2.1% increase from the 2016-17 school year according to a national report released by the Food Research and Action Center.

Proven benefits to school breakfasts

“Increasing access to school breakfast means decreasing food insecurity and hunger and improving health and educational outcomes,” said Diane Doherty, executive director of the Illinois Hunger Coalition, a statewide anti-hunger organization. “The schools and school districts in Illinois that have transitioned to alternative breakfast delivery models, such as breakfast in the classroom and second chance breakfast, and that have transitioned to offering breakfast at no charge to all students, are ensuring students are fed and ready to learn each day. We encourage all schools and school districts to follow their example.”

Illinois’s ranking can be attributed in large part to the lack of widespread implementation of both a helpful provision that allows high-poverty schools to offer breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students (known as the CEP or community eligibility provision) and alternate breakfast models that move breakfast out of the cafeteria and after the first bell.

Offering breakfast in the classroom and after the start of the school day helps schools and students overcome common barriers such as late bus arrivals and the stigma associated with school breakfast as being only for low-income children. Used together, these two approaches can move the needle dramatically on school breakfast participation, increase access to healthful food for kids across the state, and help families with tight budgets.

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