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Commonwealth Lagging in School Breakfasts

PHOTO: Massachusetts does not fare well in a new scorecard showing the scope and reach of free breakfast programs for low-income children in schools. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: Massachusetts does not fare well in a new scorecard showing the scope and reach of free breakfast programs for low-income children in schools. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
January 23, 2014

BOSTON – Massachusetts does not fare well in a new scorecard showing the scope and reach of free breakfast programs for low-income children in schools nationwide.

The figures released by the Food Research and Action Center show the Commonwealth ranked 48th out of 50 states and Washington, D.C., in the percentage of its schools offering free breakfasts to low-income children. Out of every 100 children served free school lunches, only 43 get breakfast, too.

The scores sting Pat Baker of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.

"The data's pretty stark," she says. "We haven't improved. So that's frustrating."

In Boston, the breakfast program is considered widely successful, with children allowed to pick up nutritious food from the cafeteria and eat it in the classroom as school begins.

Baker and other anti-hunger activists hope school districts from the rest of the state will wake up to the benefits of the program.

Those benefits, she says, are profound.

"There's ample evidence that children who receive breakfast before they start to study or while they're starting the day do better," Baker explains. "School attendance is better, academic performance is better, kids are healthier."

Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, says the scorecard differences aren't based on large states or small states, but reflect state leaders' enthusiasm, or lack of it, for the breakfast program.

"It's good state law versus mediocre state law," he asserts. "It's leadership – from state child nutrition and education agencies, and superintendents and principals – or a lack of leadership."

Nationwide, the scorecard shows that with 311,000 more children getting breakfast at school than in the previous year, there is significant progress, but more can be done.




Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA