Child hunger is a serious problem: 48 million Americans, including more than 15 million children, live in households that lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis. In large cities, about 25 percent of households with children do not have sufficient food.
The federally funded National School Breakfast Program has long sought to improve these numbers, by providing a free or low-cost breakfast for students in participating schools. In addition to reducing food insecurity, the program has been found to improve students’ health and nutritional intake as well as their academic achievement.
Even though school breakfast is affordable (or free), meets federal nutrition guidelines and has the potential to benefit children in multiple ways, participation in the School Breakfast Program is surprisingly low. Nationally, only about half of eligible students participating in the School Lunch Program take breakfast.
In fact, in New York City, less than a third of all students take a breakfast each day. This is particularly surprising because breakfast has been offered free to all students since September 2003.
So why are the numbers taking advantage of free breakfast so low? What difference might it make if they were higher?
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