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Maine Moves Up: Lunch, Breakfast for Low-Income Kids

PHOTO: Maine moved up in the latest Food Research and Action Center report to 15th in the nation for the number of low-income children getting both breakfast and lunch at school. Credit: LetsMove.gov.
PHOTO: Maine moved up in the latest Food Research and Action Center report to 15th in the nation for the number of low-income children getting both breakfast and lunch at school. Credit: LetsMove.gov.
February 17, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine is moving up in the latest national school breakfast report card. The state jumped two notches and now ranks 15th in the Food Research and Action Center report for the number of low-income students who participated in both lunch and breakfast programs last year.

Rita Furlow, senior policy analyst with the Maine Children's Alliance, says more school districts are coming up with innovative ways to get the "most important meal of the day" to more low-income students.

"Grab some sort of a breakfast snack, bring it into the classroom with them," she says. "School districts have been more open to doing things differently to increase participation, and recognizing that student hunger in Maine is a problem."

Furlow says last summer's legislative summit to "End Student Hunger" also helped to call attention to the fact kids perform better in the classroom when they are well-nourished. More than 11 million low-income children nationwide are participating in free breakfast programs on an average day.

Jim Weill, who heads the Food Research and Action Center, says the schools that are most successful at feeding kids are the ones serving breakfast in the classroom, or for older students, offering it at "grab-and-go" carts in the hallways.

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

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. Their data indicates Maine still has work to do, with only 57 out of 100 students currently getting a free or reduced-price breakfast at school.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME