Utah News Connection
SALT LAKE CITY — Compared with other states, Utah ranks last in the country for the number of lower-income children who eat both breakfast and lunch at school. A new national report says only one-third of Utah pupils who qualify for a free or reduced-price meal at lunchtime also receive school breakfast. It could be because the school doesn't offer breakfast, or that it isn't served at a time that fits the hectic hours before the school day.
Crystal FitzSimons, director of school programs for the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), which released the report, says that means fewer Utah schoolchildren are showing up ready to learn.
"School breakfast has a really positive impact on student achievement, on reducing absenteeism and tardiness. And there's a lot of positive educational outcomes, in addition to combating food insecurity and making sure that kids have healthy food."
The report says Utah schools are serving breakfast to just over 3 percent more children than they did the previous year. Nationally, it says, for the first time, more than half of all kids who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches are also getting breakfast.
It also notes that the most successful school breakfast programs are those that serve food right in the classroom, during first period. That way no one is singled out, and some kids don't have to make it to school earlier in order to eat. But Gina Cornia, executive director of Utahns Against Hunger, says some districts have resisted that approach, saying it's more complicated to take meals out of the cafeteria.
"A lot of states do it; it is not a difficult thing to implement. And we at Utahns Against Hunger would certainly love to see more schools, more school districts, more principals ask for breakfast in the classroom."
About 60,000 children get free or reduced-price breakfasts at school in Utah, but the report says another 64,000 are eligible. See it online at FRAC.org.