A new report about school breakfast consumption in Allegheny County found on average 56 students that qualify for free and reduced price meals are eating breakfast for every 100 that eat lunch. The report, produced by Allies for Children and Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, is based on recently released data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In Pennsylvania, on average only 50 students that qualify for free and reduced price meals are eating breakfast per 100 eating lunch. Governor Tom Wolf’s 2020 goal is to reach 60.
With work, Allegheny County can meet, and perhaps even exceed, the state’s target. Currently, many schools are increasing student consumption through alternative breakfast models. They’re feeding children outside of the typical time—before the official start of school—and the usual setting—the cafeteria. They’re also adopting the Community Eligibility Provision, a federal reimbursement program that allows schools to provide breakfast and lunch for free based on a formula determining need. ~Erika Fricke, Allies for Children health policy director
To expand breakfast programs across the commonwealth, Governor Tom Wolf’s 2017-18 budget proposal includes a $2 million dollar investment in school breakfast. The funding, if approved, would help school districts implement alternative breakfast models, including Breakfast After the Bell, Breakfast in the Classroom and “Grab and Go” Breakfast, which provides students a chance to “grab” breakfast from a food cart on the way to class or other designated areas.
Several schools in Allegheny County are seeing success from such programs, including Sto-Rox Primary Center and Upper Elementary School.
Our younger students are escorted to the cafeteria as soon as they arrive to school. Our older children head to their classrooms first, and then eat breakfast after the bell (in the cafeteria),” In addition to the Community Eligibility Provision, this staggered approach resulted in nearly 100 percent of our students eating breakfast everyday. We believe all students, regardless of family income, should start their day with a nutritious meal. ~Sara Mastrine, food service director
In all, 13 school districts in Allegheny County exceed the 60 percent target for the state. However, seven districts fell drastically short of the goal, serving breakfast to fewer than 20 percent of the amount of students receiving free and reduced price lunches.
Hunger may not affect the same numbers of students in all school districts, but all school districts have at least some students that are eligible for free and reduced price meals. We want to reach these pockets of need and also reduce the stigma associated with eating school breakfast by increasing the numbers of kids starting their school day with a healthy meal.~ Chris West, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank child nutrition outreach coordinator
Currently, Allies for Children and Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank are working with schools to implement alternative breakfast models or determine the viability of CEP.