School Breakfast Participation on the Rise in Texas

Texas School Breakfast Report Card
Photo courtesy of the Texas Hunger Initiative
Sept. 14, 2016

Texas School Breakfast Report Card shows how “big data” can be used to fight hunger

Media Contacts: Lori Fogleman, Baylor Media Communications, 254-710-6275 or Kasey Ashenfelter, Texas Hunger Initiative, 254-710-6866

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Follow Baylor Media Communications on Twitter: @BaylorUMedia
Follow Texas Hunger Initiative on Twitter: @Texas_Hunger

WACO, Texas (Sept. 14, 2016) – More Texas students than ever are starting their school days fueled for success with a school breakfast. And in a state where more than one in four children are food insecure, the public school system continues to grow as a primary infrastructure for reigning in childhood hunger, according to the third edition of the Texas School Breakfast Report Card, compiled by Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative (THI).

THI’s Texas School Breakfast Report Card breaks down the average breakfast participation for school districts in every county in Texas. The report also highlights creative models for serving breakfast and proven success strategies, such as “The Breakfast Crew” in San Angelo and “The Hallway Buffet” in Irving.

Capturing participation data in school breakfast for nearly all of Texas, the report is a powerful example of how data can be used to fight hunger.

“We look at food insecurity data from a statewide perspective, which allows us to recognize trends and develop effective strategies that can be implemented across our diverse state,” said Kathy Krey, Ph.D., director of research for the Texas Hunger Initiative. “It is an invaluable tool for improving participation in school breakfast and reducing childhood food insecurity.”

Each section of the Report Card provides school administrators, educators, child nutrition professionals and the nonprofit community with a succinct, practical instrument to increase participation in school breakfast and, ultimately, take an important step toward reducing childhood food insecurity and create a healthy, hunger-free learning environment.

Key findings from the Texas School Breakfast Report Card for the 2014-2015 academic year:

  • Nearly 320 million breakfasts were served in Texas schools in 2014-2015, an increase of 10 million breakfasts since 2012-2013.
  • Nearly 1.8 million students ate breakfast at school in Texas last year, and more than 1.5 million of the students who ate breakfast at school were eligible for free or reduced-price meals (FRP). (NOTE: Not all children who receive FRP are food insecure.)
  • At the end of the 2014-2015 school year, 63.2 percent of students in Texas who are eligible for FRP meals ate both breakfast and lunch at school, up from 61 percent in 2012-2013 and 62.1 percent in 2013-2014. The collective goal for organizations across the state is to increase this number to 70 percent.
  • More than 1,600 school districts participated in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).
  • More than 1 million students received breakfast and lunch free each day because of CEP, which is an innovative program that enables high-need schools to provide breakfast and lunch free to all students by removing the need for schools to collect paper applications.
  • The top 10 Texas counties with the highest school participation in FRP school breakfast are Jim Hogg (88.2 percent), Foard (83.4 percent), Crosby (83.1 percent), Knox (82.5 percent), Clay (82 percent), Culberson (81.9 percent), Winkler (81.2 percent), Hudspeth (78.1 percent), Willacy (75.6 percent) and Yoakum (75.3 percent).

The Texas Hunger Initiative at Baylor works with school districts and communities across the state to improve participation in school breakfast through innovative alternative service models, like Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab and Go, Breakfast after First Period, Breakfast on the Bus and vending machines.

“I’m excited that we are getting close to our participation goal and even more excited that Texas is no longer one of the five states with the highest rate of childhood hunger,” Krey said. “Improving access to our schools’ breakfast program is important, but only one step. As a state, and in our communities, we need to continue to address poverty and ensure that every child and family has access to healthy food, every day.”

Research on benefits of school breakfast

Recent studies published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, AMA Pediatrics, Food Studies and by the National Bureau of Economic Research, No Kid Hungry and Sodexo found that making breakfast part of the school day improves academic performance, creates healthy habits and helps Texas students focus on learning instead of an empty stomach.

Breakfast fuels success at school:

  • Participation in school breakfast has been associated with decreased tardiness and absences and better school performance, attention and behavior.
  • Schools that serve Breakfast in the Classroom have shown higher attendance rates than schools that do not serve Breakfast in the Classroom.
  • Participation has shown to increase three-fold when schools served Universal School Breakfast through Breakfast in the Classroom.

Breakfast promotes good health:

  • School breakfast participation has been associated with lower BMI (body mass index) and lower probability of obesity and being overweight.
  • Universal School Breakfast has been linked to fewer visits to the school nurse and has shown a positive impact on children’s mental health, including a reduction in behavior problems, anxiety and depression.
  • School breakfast has been linked to better eating habits among children, particularly in reducing the percentage of calories consumed from fat.

Breakfast improves nutrient intake:

  • Children with access to school breakfast tend to have a healthier diet when school is in session than when school is not in session.
  • Studies have indicated that students who eat breakfast have fewer vitamin deficiencies, are less likely to experience chronic illnesses and are more likely to maintain a healthy BMI.

To download the Texas School Breakfast Report Card, click here.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT THE TEXAS HUNGER INITIATIVE

The Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) at Baylor University is a capacity-building and collaborative project, which develops and implements strategies to end hunger through policy, education, research, community organizing and community development. THI works to make the state food secure by ensuring that every individual has access to three healthy meals a day, seven days a week. THI convenes federal, state and local government stakeholders with non-profits, faith communities and business leaders to create an efficient system of accountability that increases food security in Texas. THI’s work to increase participation in school breakfast programs is supported by No Kid Hungry. Along with its office located within the Diana Garland School of Social Work at Baylor, THI has offices located in Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Lubbock, McAllen and San Angelo.

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