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National School Breakfast Week is here again!

Elementary students eat their in classroom breakfast_hunger free oklahoma

by Katie Raymond, OKC Regional Program Manager

There’s no easy way to say this… school breakfast participation across Oklahoma is down. Average Daily Participation (ADP*) in school breakfast dropped by 9.8% from School Year (SY) 2021-2022 to SY 2022-2023.

The decline in school meals participation could stem from multiple factors. The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) notes, “Rising food costs, labor shortages, and supply chain disruptions, coupled with the return of charging for meals, have contributed to reports of declining participation in many school districts. Families have been confused about the change from pandemic operations; stigma surrounding school meal participation and school meal debt has returned; and schools are burdened with increased administrative work.”

Not only does school breakfast have both health and academic benefits for students, it also has ripple effects that benefit schools, too. Some noteworthy benefits for both students and schools include:

  • Improved concentration and alertness result in fewer behavior and attention issues.
  • Improved cognitive function, attention, and memory can translate into better student engagement and test scores.
  • Fewer tardies, absences, disciplinary referrals, and trips to the school nurse can keep students present and engaged in the classroom.
  • With little to no change to bell schedules, schools can incorporate breakfast into daily routines.

The best, most effective way to make sure children are getting the meals they need is to offer universal free breakfasts at school. When schools offer free meals to all students, participation increases which means reimbursement for meals increases, too. Thankfully, there are a few options to choose from:  

  • Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)
    • Eligible schools can opt into CEP to offer free breakfasts and lunches to all students.CEP uses the Identified Student Percentage (ISP) to determine the percentage of meals reimbursed at the free rate.“Identified students” are students who are certified for free meals without having to submit a school meal form.
    • Ideally, schools have an ISP of 62.5% to get 100% of meals reimbursed at the free rate.
  • Provision 2
    • Eligible schools can opt into Provision 2 to offer free breakfasts and/or lunches to all students. Provision 2 uses the ratio of free, reduced-price, and paid meals based on school meal forms that are collected.
    • Schools need a free and reduced-price rate of about 70% to break even.
  • Nonpricing
    • Any school can choose to use the Nonpricing method. No fees are collected from students for breakfasts.
    • Schools need a free and reduced-price rate of about 70% to break even.

For more information about serving universal free breakfasts, read Hunger Free Oklahoma’s (HFO) School Breakfast Report 2022 or No Kid Hungry’s Community Eligibility Provision page.

Another proven method to increase school breakfast participation is Breakfast After the Bell. Serving breakfast in the classroom or providing a second-chance grab-and-go option after the first bell makes breakfast a convenient, accessible, and seamless part of the school day. The increased participation can lead to higher reimbursements for schools, making serving breakfast more feasible.

Increasing participation in school breakfast improves students’ academic and health outcomes. Here are some quick ways to act:

  1. Review HFO’s School Breakfast Data Map to see where your school stands on serving breakfast and see how participation has changed over time.
  2. Learn more about school breakfast in Oklahoma by reading the Oklahoma School Breakfast Report 2022.
  3. Share your school breakfast successes by completing your HFO School Profile.
  4. Support school breakfast and help make sure all children in Oklahoma are nourished and ready to start each school day. Read HFO’s letter, then sign-on signifying your support for universal free school meals legislation.
  5. Connect with Hunger Free Oklahoma to explore ways to boost breakfast participation at your school.

*What is ADP? Average Daily Participation is an estimate of the number of children who participate in school breakfast each day. There are multiple ways to measure ADP. Hunger Free Oklahoma has chosen the simplest: dividing total meals served each year by total operating days for each school district.

Working together for a hunger free Oklahoma.

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