- February 8, 2018
- Hawaiʻi Appleseed
- Hawaii Appleseed Staff
All of Hawai‘i’s children deserve a good education that opens up opportunities for the rest of their lives. But hungry keiki can’t learn.
In the face of some of the highest food costs in the nation, many Hawai‘i families can’t afford to provide their children with a healthy breakfast every morning. Even higher-income families often can’t find time to sit down for a good breakfast before school. Meanwhile, studies show that students who skip breakfast have poorer cognitive functioning.
One way to ensure that our children are ready to learn is to participate in the School Breakfast Program. Research has shown that when students eat school breakfast, they also have better nutrition and lower rates of obesity, as well as improved attendance, behavior and grades.
Hawai‘i has an extraordinary opportunity to ensure that our students eat breakfast each morning—99.7 percent of our schools have breakfast programs, placing us in the top five in the nation for the percentage of schools serving breakfast. However, Hawai‘i ranks 47th among the states in student breakfast participation, with less than half (43 percent) of our students who participate in free or reduced-price lunch also getting school breakfast. If Hawai‘i were to raise our participation rate to 70 percent, almost 17,000 more of our keiki would benefit from school breakfast, and our state would get nearly $7 million per year in additional federal funds.
This Hawai‘i School Breakfast Scorecard looks at every Hawaiʻi Department of Education (DOE) and public charter school to see which are reaching the 70 percent participation goal, and we find that 15 of them – our School Breakfast Champions – met or exceeded it during the 2015-16 school year. In this scorecard, we also highlight schools that are successfully piloting alternative ways to serve breakfast, with promising results.
There are proven ways to boost school breakfast participation. One of the best is moving breakfast after the first bell, either into the classroom, onto grab-and-go carts, or after first period. One Hawai‘i school quadrupled its participation rates by implementing a breakfast-after-first-period program. Research has found that these alternative breakfast service models correlate with better achievement test scores, attendance and behavior.
Another effective way to boost school breakfast participation is the Community Eligibility Program (CEP), which allows high-poverty schools to offer school meals free of charge to all students. Not only does this make it easier for students and their families to access meals, but it also helps schools by streamlining meal service, as well as eliminating the cost and administrative burden of processing school meal applications.
Hawaiʻi DOE has been proactive and effective in recent years at expanding the number of CEP schools across the state. Hawaiʻi went from seven CEP schools in the 2015-16 school year, to 30 schools in 2016-17, and on to 52 schools in 2017-18.
Hawai‘i Appleseed has launched a School Breakfast Challenge to help Hawai’i schools increase their school breakfast participation numbers, especially among low-income students. We’re offering technical support and up to $10,000 per school in grants. Schools may complete this online application to participate in the School Breakfast Challenge.