More low-income children in Vermont are starting their day with a nutritious school breakfast. According to the School Breakfast Scorecard, released earlier this week by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC, a national anti-hunger advocacy group), 17,796 low-income children in Vermont participated in the national school breakfast program on an average school day in 2018–2019. Vermont ranks second in the nation, behind West Virginia, for the ratio of low income students receiving free or reduced-priced lunches who also take advantage of school breakfast programs.
“No student should learn what hunger feels like at school, and providing a nutritious school breakfast is one important way we prevent hunger and make sure all students have what they need to learn,” said Anore Horton, executive director at Hunger Free Vermont. “Being a student is really a young person’s job, and they should be able to focus completely on their job while they are at school without hunger getting in the way. School breakfast keeps children healthy, making the most of their education.”
“When breakfast is moved out of the cafeteria and served after the bell, participation increases and more children reap the benefits, including improvements in student’s attendance, behavior, test scores and nutrient intakes,” said Jill Hussels, school nutrition specialist for New England Dairy. “It’s so exciting to see so many Vermont schools embrace models that incorporate breakfast as a part of the school day, making it more convenient and easy for students to start their day with a nutritious meal so they are ready to learn.”
Vermont’s ranking can be attributed to the hard work and commitment of schools throughout Vermont, in collaboration with statewide nonprofits and the Vermont Agency of Education. It can also be attributed in large part to the number of schools across the state that have chosen to both move breakfast after the bell using an alternative breakfast model, and make breakfast universal – served at no charge to all students. Offering universal breakfast in the classroom and after the school day starts helps schools and students overcome common barriers such as late bus arrivals, tight household budgets, and the stigma associated with school breakfast as being only for low-income children. Vermont schools have proved that used together, these two approaches can dramatically move the needle on school breakfast participation.