SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Too few children from low-income families take advantage of free breakfasts offered at schools, but child nutrition advocates hope a new grant program will help turn that around.
Children who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch are also eligible for free breakfasts at school, but many of those kids don’t take the breakfast.
Advocates say that’s because the meals are served very early before classes start, and their parents are already coping with busy schedules.
Child nutrition groups are instead pushing for more schools to serve breakfast during class time to all students.
Marti Woolford with Utahns Against Hunger said that when meals were served during class time to all students, poor children won’t feel singled out and miss time otherwise spent socializing or preparing for class.
While some children from higher-income homes will end up eating two breakfasts, universal breakfast programs overall ensures all kids have nutritious food, Woolford said.
Only a handful of Utah schools are currently offering free breakfasts to all students. But to help, a national group called Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom will allow 45 Utah schools to apply for grants to expand or start serving breakfast in the classroom.
The group, which includes organizations such as the Food Research and Action Center, the National Association of Elementary School Principals Foundation and more, announced in early October that Utah was one of 10 states where schools could take advantage of $7.5 million in grants that the group is offering.
Eligible schools must have at least 70 percent of students who come from low-income families and are eligible for free or reduced price lunches but have less than half of students participating in a breakfast program.
In Salt Lake City, six schools currently offer free breakfasts during class, according to the Deseret News (http://bit.ly/2eMVwvH ).
At Backman Elementary School, students start their days by stopping off at the cafeteria to pick up fruits or whole grains and low fat milk, which they eat in back in their classrooms while teachers run through lessons or announcements.
Katie Kapusta, who oversees child nutrition for the Salt Lake City school district, said at schools where breakfast is served to all students, fewer kids overall are late to class and students seem more focused after the meal.
“Everybody is more calm and ready to learn after eating,” she said.
In addition to the six Salt Lake City schools, all nine K-12 schools in the Logan School District offer free breakfasts to students in the cafeteria.
Utah School Employees Association President Jerad Reay said that where schools have started serving breakfast in class, educators see fewer discipline problems, absences and tardiness. “Those benefits are what the students in Utah deserve,” Reay said.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly gave the name of the national group awarding the grants, Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom.