Even fewer low-income children in Hawaii are starting their day with a healthy school breakfast. Today Hawaii dropped from 49th to 50th in the nation for school breakfast participation among all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
According to the national School Breakfast Scorecard, released today by the Food Research & Action Center, 26,170 low-income children in Hawaii participated in the national School Breakfast Program on an average school day in 2017-2018, a 5 percent decrease from the previous year.
FRAC’s report finds that fewer than 40 low-income children in Hawaii ate school breakfast for every 100 that received free or recured-price school lunch during the 2017-2018 school year. This is far below the national average of 57.
In fact, the top 2 states, West Virginia and New Mexico, had 84 to 70 percent, respectively, of their low-income lunch students also getting school breakfast. If Hawaii could get our rate up to 70, nearly 20,000 additional low-income keiki would receive the benefits of school breakfast, and our state would pull down an additional $5.6 million per year in federal funds.
There are alternative breakfast models that are in widespread use in other states and have been successful at moving the needle on school breakfast participation. Many move after the first bell or offer grab-and-go meals, to overcome late bus arrivals and other reasons that children and teenagers get to school too late to sit down for breakfast in the cafeteria before class.
“All of our keiki deserve a good education that opens up opportunities for the rest of their lives, and school breakfast is an important tool that can help our students succeed,” said Nicole Woo of the Hawaii Appleseed. “Some schools in our state have found new, successful ways to serve breakfast to their students, ensuring that they start the school day ready to learn. We strongly encourage other schools to follow their lead so that more of our children can benefit.”