NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Policy Matters

Durham Public Schools looking to adopt “Breakfast is on us” initiative

Durham Public Schools (DPS) is expected to adopt a breakfast program at no cost to students and families, a recent Herald Sun articles reports. Under the program, all DPS students could eat breakfast at school at no cost, regardless of their family’s financial status.

In order to combat the stigma associated with receiving free or reduced breakfast, DPS plans to use a catchy slogan, “Breakfast is on us.”

By eliminating the stigma associated with the existing free and reduced meal programs offered only to students from low- and moderate-income families, students are more likely to participate in school meal programs, which can have a positive impact on their ability to succeed academically. The Herald Sun article notes that national data show that school districts that provide universal breakfast programs at no cost to students have higher test scores, fewer disciplinary problems and more focused students.

Many schools across North Carolina have the option to offer breakfast and lunch programs at no cost to students and families this upcoming school year. Nearly 300,000 students in high-poverty schools across North Carolina could potentially benefit from an initiative, known as Community Eligibility, which ensures every child in these schools receives two nutritious meals each day so that they are ready to learn all day.

In the 22 schools that DPS piloted its universal breakfast program at no cost to students, an additional 64,971 breakfast meals were served from the start of school through March 3, compared to the same period the previous school year. Schools in other states that have adopted universal school meal programs at no cost to students have experienced similar outcomes. In schools in Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan that adopted Community Eligibility for two years, daily lunch participation rose 13 percent. Daily breakfast participation in these schools rose 25 percent.

DPS’s universal breakfast program also resulted in about $7,001 in increased federal and state reimbursement, the Herald Sun reports, meaning the district took in more in federal and state reimbursement dollars than it spent to feed additional children.

Universal school meal program is a win-win for students, schools, and families. Schools in North Carolina eligible for Community Eligibility for the upcoming 2014-15 school year must decide whether to adopt the program by June 30, 2014.

DPS’s “Breakfast is on us” initiative represents a positive step in helping ensure that all kids have food in their stomach and show up in classrooms ready to learn. This upcoming school year presents an opportunity to ensure that thousands more North Carolina students are afforded this opportunity.

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