More Missouri Students Eating School Breakfast

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MEXICO - A new national report shows the number of low-income children in Missouri eating school-provided breakfast has increased by nearly two percent.

During the 2012-2013 school year, 55.5 out of every 100 students that received free or reduced-price lunch ate the school-provided breakfast.

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) releases an annual School Breakfast Scorecard that measures the success of the School Breakfast Program at the national and state levels. The most recent FRAC report shows that on an average school day in 2012-2013, 10.8 million low-income children participated in school breakfast, an increase of nearly 311,000 from the previous year. 2013 was the second consecutive year in which more than half of all low-income students who participated in school lunch also received school breakfast.

New strategies, such as the Community Eligibility Program, increased national participation in the School Breakfast Program. The Community Eligibility Program allows high-poverty schools to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students without the need for individual applications. In the states participating in the Community Eligibility Provision, daily school breakfast participation among low-income children increased by 5 percent compared to 2.5 percent in all other states. Community Eligibility is available in 11 states, and will be available nationwide in the 2014-2015 school year.

"If they aren't eating well they aren't going to be able to concentrate," said Joyce Fenner, director of food services for the Mexico school district. "Especially with children, the concentration level, if they're hungry, it's not going to be as good. Their learning is going to suffer as well so more kids eating is definitely better for everybody."

Fenner said since last school year, breakfast participation has increased, especially at the elementary level.

"I think its wonderful, especially given the fact that so many parents work out of the home and it's pretty hectic for them to get the children out of the house," said Wilma Fendrick, kitchen manager at Mexico Middle School.  "So us having breakfast for the kids makes sure they have an opportunity to get the meal."

The Mexico school district's food services will be sampling items the week of Jan.27 to potentially add to the breakfast menu. Fenner said state regulations are constantly changing the school's food services department is always working to stay ahead. It is looking to add more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain items to the menu.

Through promotion and word of mouth, the school district is hoping to increase the number of students eating school-provided breakfast in the future.