Utah has the fewest number of eligible school children eating free and reduced price breakfast each day. According to a new national report released today, Utah served about 34 low-income children breakfast for every 100 that received free or reduced price lunch during the 2011-2012 school year.
The School Breakfast Scorecard, released annually by the Food Research and Action Center shows Utah is dead last in breakfast program participation, while participation nationally is on the rise. Gina Cornia is the Executive Director of Utahn’s Against Hunger. She says data shows when schools offer breakfast in the classroom, on the bus or between when school starts and recess begins more kids eat breakfast. But most Utah schools provide breakfast almost an hour before the first bell rings. That’s one reason she says the state lags behind in participation.
“I think it’s a matter of us as a state making that a priority that not only are our schools well-funded and funded appropriately, but that we make sure that kids start the day ready to learn," Cornia says."
The federal government fully reimburses schools that provide free or reduced price breakfast to students.
Luann Elliot is Director of Child Nutrition Programs for the Utah State Office of Education. She says it’s still the philosophy of many local school districts that kids should eat breakfast at home.
“I think most of us agree with that philosophy, but the truth is that many kids don’t eat breakfast at home, so ignoring that doesn’t serve us well," Elliot says.
Elliot says the state is providing training on breakfast opportunities at the next conference for school food authorities this month.