January 15, 2013 |

Report: WA Schools Could Work Harder to End Hunger

SEATTLE - Washington is making some progress in ending hunger at schools, according to a new report by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), but not at the pace other states have shown. The group's School Breakfast Scorecard finds almost 44 percent of Washington pupils who receive free or reduced-price lunches also get breakfast at school, but that's far from its national goal of more than 50 percent.

Nadia Beckwith-Stanley, food policy associate with The Children's Alliance, says it's disappointing, but she points out that schools are juggling other food-related priorities, too.

"School food-service programs are in the throes of some pretty dramatic changes, implementing some really great menu changes and menu improvements for school meals. And so, a lot of folks are moving a little bit more slowly than we'd like on school breakfast, but we are seeing movement."

Washington's school-breakfast participation is up 5.5 percent from a year ago, and Beckwith-Stanley says that's much better than the 1.6 percent increase it saw in the previous year. Overall, the state is ranked 39th in terms of school-breakfast program availability.

Crystal FitzSimons, FRAC's director of school programs, says some of the most successful school breakfast programs don't happen in the cafeteria. Instead, kids eat breakfast during their first class period, which doesn't single anyone out, or require that some children get to school earlier.

"We call that breakfast in the classroom or 'grab-and-go' breakfast. And so, the kids are able to eat with their classmates. They eat while the teacher is taking attendance or doing the first morning lesson, and they're able to start the school day ready to learn because they've had a healthy breakfast."

The report says about 160,000 Washington schoolchildren eat free or reduced-price breakfasts at school, and another 95,000 could be eligible. See it online at FRAC.org.

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