Utah ranked 51st out of 51 on School Breakfast Scorecard, but State Taking Steps to Improve Participation –
As school doors re-open in Utah, school breakfast will be critical in helping combat childhood hunger and learning loss prompted by COVID-19, according to a new report released by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC).
The FRAC’s annual School Breakfast Scorecard, released every year since 1992, reveals that on an average school day from September through February of the 2019–2020 school year, 5% fewer lower-income children in Utah were participating in breakfast than the previous year.
The report assesses school breakfast participation in all 50 states and the District of Columbia up to the start of COVID-19 related school closures. The report further notes that if Utah schools participated in breakfast at rates similar to West Virginia and other national leaders, over 46,000 more low-income children would be fed daily and over $9 million would be available annually to Utah meal programs through federal reimbursements.
“Access to breakfast is more important for students than ever, not just as nutrition, but because of the impact breakfast has on focus and mental health,” said Neil Rickard, Child Nutrition Advocate for Utahns Against Hunger.
Utah has already taken statewide steps to improve breakfast participation. In March of 2020, just after the cutoff of the Scorecard’s data set, Governor Herbert signed legislation introducing the Start Smart program aimed at increasing breakfast participation by phasing alternative breakfast models like second chance breakfast or breakfast in the classroom over the next several years.
“We know that the states making gains in participation are the ones supporting these alternative breakfast models. Start Smart will be a terrific step toward making sure all Utah children receive the benefits of a wholesome breakfast at the start of their day,” added Rickard.
Federal waivers in effect through June 30 have been allowing students to receive breakfast and other meals at no cost through the summer meals program. Pandemic EBT, which was extended by the continuing budget resolution last fall, would also provide benefits to families of low-income children unable to attend school due to pandemic-related closures.
“The alternative breakfast models that Start Smart supports are one of the critical ways to make sure kids are getting the meals they need,” added Rickard. “Schools are opening up, but COVID-19 created a lot of hunger, and parents should know about the programs that will still be available to their kids in the future.”
Read the Scorecard report.