March 7, 2016
A new report about school breakfast consumption in Allegheny County shows more students eating breakfast but wide variation occurring within districts. Breakfast Basics: A Comprehensive Look at School Breakfast in Allegheny County highlights how school policy changes can help combat childhood hunger and increase the number of breakfasts schools serve.
We know that breakfast matters when it comes to health and education. What we didn’t know was how local schools served students breakfast and how many children were actually eating it. Our study found that more students are eating at school and more schools are finding creative ways to feed children outside of the typical time–before the official start of school–and the usual setting–the cafeteria. ~Patrick Dowd, executive director at Allies for Children
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 and local case studies. It showcases how the Community Eligibility Provision–an option that allows eligible schools the chance to serve free breakfast to all students–is being implemented at Pittsburgh Public Schools.
The report also illustrates how alternative breakfast models used at schools, including Brentwood Middle/High School, Grandview Upper Elementary School and Penn Hills High School, significantly increased the number of students starting the day with a nutritious meal.
At Grandview Upper Elementary School, before the school started serving students breakfast in the classroom, about 170 children ate breakfast each day. Now, that number is closer to 465 students.
Now that we have a breakfast program, our students start the day eating together and working through warm ups. It gives them a safe, friendly beginning and gives them the focus they need to engage in learning through the morning. Knowing that there is always enough food seems to help our students relax and focus on their most important job: learning and growing. ~Kimberly Price, principal of Grandview Upper Elementary School
In 2013, only one school district–Pittsburgh Public Schools– served breakfast to at least half of their student population. In 2015, four districts–Cornell, East Allegheny, Pittsburgh Public Schools, and Woodland Hills– served breakfast to that amount. During the same time period, the number of districts serving fewer than 10 percent of students decreased from 15 to 13.
We know that one in five children in our region face hunger but as a community we can solve it. As the network of school districts and agencies supporting one another to ensure all children have access to school meal programs grows, I am confident that the number of students benefiting from school breakfast programs will continue to increase. ~Lisa Scales, president and CEO of Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
The impact of school breakfast goes well beyond anti-hunger initiative. Researchers point to school breakfast as a tool in improving educational environments, helping children learn, and enhancing their overall health.
We know that when children go hungry, it impacts their overall health and their ability to succeed in the classroom. If we want children to be healthy, grow well and achieve their academic potential, they need adequate nutrition. School breakfast is key to meeting these goals.~Anne Marie Kuchera, a registered dietitian and project director with Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Community Benefit Initiatives
I am pleased to see the increases in school breakfast participation in Allegheny County schools. Healthy eating is critical for all children and providing meals at school is one important way to help all of our children, particularly the most vulnerable, succeed academically while also improving their health. Addressing the food access and nutrition in Allegheny County is an important part of the Live Well Allegheny campaign, and I commend the schools in their efforts. ~Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department.
The effort could help Pennsylvania improve its school breakfast consumption rates. Earlier this month, the Food Research & Action Center ranked the state overall 40th in school breakfast participation. In an accompanying report, Pittsburgh Public Schools made the list of large school districts reaching a target percentage of students eating breakfast each day.