School Breakfast Participation in District of Columbia Key to Combatting Childhood Hunger, Learning Loss Caused by COVID-19, Report Finds

Jordan Baker
jbaker@frac.org
202-640-1118

– District of Columbia ranked Sixth on School Breakfast Scorecard

WASHINGTON, February 16, 2021 — The District of Columbia saw an increase in school breakfast participation during the 2019–2020 school year, solidifying its reputation for serving more school breakfast to low-income children compared to states across the country, according to the annual national school breakfast report released by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC).

The School Breakfast Scorecard measures the success of the School Breakfast Program at the national and state levels, including the District of Columbia. The FRAC report finds that 69 low-income children in Washington, D.C., ate school breakfast on an average day for every 100 that received free or reduced-price lunch from September through February of the 2019–2020 school year, prior to school closures driven by the COVID-19.

Despite the growth, participation must grow to reach more students. School breakfast will be critical in helping combat childhood hunger and learning loss prompted by the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has caused alarming spikes in childhood hunger all across the country. As students return to the classroom, school breakfast will provide a critical source for children to get the nutrition they need for their health and learning,” said Beverley Wheeler, Director, D.C. Hunger Solutions (DCHS).

For another year, Washington, D.C. outperformed the national average. Nationally, 58 low-income children ate school breakfast for every 100 who also ate school lunch, an increase from the previous school year’s ratio of 57:100.

The District remains one of the top leaders in school breakfast participation thanks to increased adoption of Community Eligibility, with 95 percent of eligible high-poverty schools participating in the provision that offers all students free meals. Programs like breakfast in the classroom, or “grab and go” where children can take meals from carts or kiosks to then eat in the classroom, are proven to lead to higher participation rates during a normal school year.

Out-of-school time programs also contribute to students’ health and learning, including the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program. P-EBT has been a critical program in providing D.C. families with students who have lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to school closures with money on a new or existing Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card to help fill the school meals gap.

“We are happy that D.C. provided more students with school breakfast last school year, but we must continue to grow participation so every child in D.C. starts the day with breakfast as students return to the classroom,” said Wheeler.

Download the Scorecard report.

###

About the Scorecard:
The full report, School Breakfast Scorecard, is available at www.frac.org. To measure the reach of the School Breakfast Program nationally and in the states, FRAC compares the number of schools and low-income children that participate in breakfast to those that participate in the National School Lunch Program. FRAC also sets a participation goal of reaching 70 low-income children with breakfast for every 100-receiving lunch as a way to gauge state progress and the costs of under participation in the program.

About D.C. Hunger Solutions:
D.C. Hunger Solutions, an initiative of the Food Research & Action Center, works to end hunger in the nation’s capital and improve the nutrition, health, economic security, and well-being of low-income District residents.

About the Food Research & Action Center:
For 50 years, the Food Research & Action Center has been the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. To learn more, visit FRAC.org and follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.