While about half of the estimated 12 million children from eligible households received free or reduced-price school breakfasts in the 1999-2000 school year, the program failed to reach an estimated 2 million more needy children, says an annual survey sponsored by the D.C.-based Food Research Action Council (FRAC).
Its "2000 School Breakfast Scorecard" also asserts that the national average of 42 percent of low-income children participating in the federal school lunch program (who also get the government-subsidized breakfasts) is too low. Although there was a 260,000 increase in participating children between the 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 school years, the scorecard shows only three states - Vermont, Rhode Island and Iowa - with notable increases in the ratio of school lunch to school breakfast program participants. Participating schools receive partial federal reimbursements for students participating in the free meal programs.
FRAC calls on states to supplement federal funding to participating schools and to require schools to offer the program by state law. Studies have proven that children who eat breakfast show more positive behavior and have better academic performance than students who do not. The school breakfast program provides breakfasts to needy students who the scorecard calls "hungry or on the edge of hunger." Contact: (202) 986-2200. www.frac.org.
- Julia Kimball