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New York Lags in Reaching Low-Income Kids with Free Breakfast

PHOTO: The Food Research and Action Center says New York ranks 40th out of 50 states for participation in free School Breakfast Programs for low-income children. Photo courtesy U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
PHOTO: The Food Research and Action Center says New York ranks 40th out of 50 states for participation in free School Breakfast Programs for low-income children. Photo courtesy U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
February 10, 2015

NEW YORK - A new report shows 11 million low-income children from around the nation participate, on an average day, in free breakfast programs - but when it comes to reaching hungry kids New York is at the "back of the bus."

The report from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) shows New York coming in at 40th among states. Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, says there is plenty of room for the state to do better, especially since breakfast programs are paid for with federal funding.

"With every penny paid for by the federal government, this is increasing nutrition and boosting educational performance," says Berg. "So I hope this is a wakeup call that we need to do things differently and better in New York."

According to the report, about 1.2 million low-income children receive school lunch across the state, but just over 500,000 participate in the breakfast program.

Jim Weill, the president of FRAC, says the schools most successful at feeding kids are the ones serving breakfast in the classroom or, for older kids, offering it at "grab and go" carts in the hallways.

"The school districts and the states are seeing the most progress, year to year, in not making kids go to the cafeteria half an hour before school starts," says Weill. "Instead, they're serving breakfast 'after the bell,' and are doing much better."

Berg says New York City tends to be ahead of the curve on issues of poverty and education, but is missing out on the benefits of free breakfasts.

"It's just so at odds with the rest of our wonderful mayor's progressive agenda that the City of New York is dragging down the numbers statewide," says Berg.

The Food Research and Action Center says a reasonable goal is to reach 70 low income children with school breakfast for every 100 who eat lunch. New York missed that goal by a large margin, with only 45 percent eating both breakfast and lunch at school.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY