NYC School Breakfast Participation Rate is Worst Out of Any Big U.S. City


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Nicole Aber, 646-627-7741

NYC School Breakfast Participation Still Lagging; Worst Rate Out of Any Big U.S. City

Only 45% of Children Receiving Lunch in NYC Public Schools Receive Breakfast

Advocates: “We Shouldn’t Be Losing to Boston and Chicago on Feeding Hungry Kids”

Elected Officials Call for Immediate Improvements

New York City still has the lowest school breakfast participation rate out of any big city (population of one million or more) public school district in the U.S. with only 44.6 percent of students who get school lunch getting school breakfast on a daily basis in the 2018-2019 school year, according to a new national report.

When factoring in somewhat smaller cities and large suburban school districts, out of the 76 largest school districts in the nation, the New York City Department of Education is in 67th place in breakfast participation, according to a report by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), “School Breakfasts: Making it Work in Large School Districts,” which was just released.

In response to this report, Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a national direct service and advocacy organization based in New York City, said: “It’s bad enough when New York loses to Boston or Chicago in sports, but it’s truly outrageous that we are losing to them in feeding hungry children. This is particularly nonsensical since the City is losing out on tens of millions of dollars in federal reimbursements per year.”

If the NYC Department of Education reached a target of 70 percent participation rate in the School Breakfast Program, that would mean 151,113 additional students would be getting a nutritious start to their day, the report found. Because the vast majority of the School Breakfast Program is federally funded, the City lost out on more than $48 million in federal funds in the last school year due to this under-participation. Hunger Free America previously found that one in six of the city’s children live in households that can’t always afford enough food.

One hundred percent of the NYC Department of Education’s 1.15 million students are eligible for either free or reduced-price meals. As the FRAC report emphasized, “Breakfast after the Bell” or “Breakfast in the Classroom” models have proven to have the biggest impact on increasing participation compared to when breakfast is served in the cafeteria before school starts. However, out of the 2,525 NYC public schools serving breakfast, only 225 served Breakfast in the Classroom and 457 schools employed a “Grab and Go” model during the 2018-2019 school year, according to the FRAC report. However, not all classrooms in the schools employing those models participated in breakfast after the bell.

Continued Berg, “This report demonstrates that Mayor de Blasio is failing to meet his previous promises to make in-classroom breakfast universal. The City is also violating the spirit, and perhaps the letter, of a New York State law mandating breakfast after the bell in all high-needs schools. This report should provide a wake-up call that the City should dramatically ramp up its breakfast efforts immediately.”

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said,Hunger has no place in a healthy, just society. The City should use every tool in the toolbox to make sure that our children don't face hunger. If 18 percent of our kids going to school come from food insecure homes and our school breakfast program participation rates are so low, the City must make changes to ensure that ‘Breakfast after the Bell’ or ‘Breakfast in the Classroom’ programs are accessible to all kids that need it.”

“Every student should start each school day with a nutritious breakfast, but in New York City, not enough students are getting the nourishment they need,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “I stand with Hunger Free America in calling on the DOE to increase school breakfast in New York City, because every child deserves equal access to free and reduced-price breakfasts, especially students from low-income families. Our children deserve the best, and that means offering more breakfasts in the classroom to ensure that no child goes hungry, and our kids stay actively engaged and focused throughout the school day.”

New York City Council Member Stephen Levin said, “One in six New York City children are living in food insecurity, and yet New York City is missing out on millions of dollars in federal reimbursements because our school breakfast participation rate is so low. This is changeable -- it’s on us as elected leaders to invest in programs that we know work, like Breakfast in the Classroom. Healthy food access is a right all young people deserve and alongside organizations like Hunger Free America and No Kid Hungry New York, I will continue to advocate for full funding and implementation of our schools’ food programs.”