NC Budget and Tax Center

How can North Carolina make sure students are eating breakfast?

The benefits of school breakfast participation are clear — reduced hunger, improved academic achievement and test scores, elevated health and nutrition, and reduced absenteeism, tardiness, and behavior referrals. In 2016-2017, more children participated in the school breakfast program nationally than ever before, according to the Food Research Action Center’s (FRAC) School Breakfast Scorecard. This report measures the reach of the School Breakfast Program in the 2016–2017 school year — nationally and in each state — based on a variety of metrics, and examines the impact of select trends and policies on program participation. While participation from year to year has continued to increase nationally, the rate of growth has slowed.

We want to ensure a thriving North Carolina by providing everyone with the resources to have a sufficient childhood development. North Carolina is the 10th hungriest state in the nation, meaning many families face high levels of food insecurity. These families do not have access to the nutritious foods necessary to safeguard their children are healthy. For children, poor nutrition is associated with anxiety, diet-related diseases, learning difficulties, and health problems, that can affect them throughout their K-12 education journey and as they continue to grow into adulthood. The school breakfast program plays a critical role in filling voids for low-income families. Here are some ways NC schools can continue to increase breakfast participation:

Resources to Increase Participation

  • The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows North Carolina’s high poverty schools to serve breakfast at no cost to all enrolled students without the hassle of household applications. This opportunity allows breakfast to become available to everyone – no matter the income level.
  • The Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) initiative allows innovative ways for children to access school breakfast. To combat these barriers, the initiative is tasked with moving breakfast out of the cafeteria and integrating it into the academic day. The aim is to increase breakfast participation for students and schools. Innovative Breakfast Models:
  • Grab N Go – Breakfast is distributed through carts or tables located in hallways or at the entrance of the school. Students grab their breakfast and take it to their classroom.
  • Classroom Delivery – The staff or a designated student will deliver the breakfast to the classrooms via a cooler, where students will eat breakfast in the beginning of the school day.
  • Café Pick Up – Students pick up the breakfast in the cafeteria and take it to their classroom to eat.
  • Second Chance – Students eat breakfast during a break in the morning for those who missed the original breakfast time.
  • The Walmart Foundation Grant – Funded by the Walmart Foundation, the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom developed this initiative in response to their shared passion for child nutrition and its potential for improving educational outcomes and child health. The grants provide high-need schools and districts coverage of the upfront costs often associated with the start-up and implementation of alternative breakfast models, such as equipment purchases, outreach efforts to parents, program promotion, and other related expenses. Grant funds do not cover the cost of food, which are covered through the federal School Breakfast Program. In addition, the Partners provide technical assistance to participating school districts and bring together allies from the state and local anti-hunger, health, nutrition, and education communities to help support the effort.

Chanae Wilson is the Engagement Assistant for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center.

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