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School Breakfast Report Ranks Utah Last in Nation

PHOTO: A new survey ranks Utah last in the U.S. for the percentage of students who benefit from the School Breakfast Program. Photo courtesy letsmove.gov
PHOTO: A new survey ranks Utah last in the U.S. for the percentage of students who benefit from the School Breakfast Program. Photo courtesy letsmove.gov
February 16, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY - Utah ranks last in the nation in a survey measuring the percentage of students who are part of the School Breakfast Program.

New research from the Food Research and Action Center shows 34 percent of students eligible for the program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, started their day with a nutritious breakfast during the last school year. The top performing states have participation rates of more than 70 percent.

Marti Woolford, nutrition initiatives director with Utahns Against Hunger, says eating breakfast is critical for student learning.

"Kids eating before school and then improved academics," she says. "Improved attendance, less tardies, and fewer discipline issues."

Woolford says states that did the best in the report were those where schools serve breakfast in the classroom, instead of only in the cafeteria. She says research shows children are more likely to eat breakfast if it's served in the classroom. Woolford explains, some children skip breakfast served in the cafeteria, to play with their friends, and for other reasons.

Nationally, the report shows during the last school year, more than 11 million low-income children ate a healthy morning meal each day, that's an increase of 320,000 students.

FRAC President Jim Weill says his organization compares the lunch and breakfast numbers to gauge how much progress the breakfast programs are making, and are seeing steady gains.

"In the 2013-2014 school year there were 53 low-income kids eating breakfast for every hundred eating lunch and that was up by 10 kids per hundred over a decade," says Weill. "We're making real progress, year after year."

However, he adds, 48 states still have not made FRAC's goal of reaching at least 70 low-income children with breakfast at school for every 100 in the free lunch program.

Utah is one of those states falling short and is missing out on more than $15 million in federal School Breakfast Program funding as a result.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT