By: Christa Drew Date: 9/8/10
When kids return to school it’s often the biggest one-time expense of the year for families and certainly a cause of stress. The daily cost of nutritious breakfast, lunch and snacks, all essential to the healthy growth and development of kids, plus the need for medical physicals, clothing, school supplies and more, can be a considerable financial burden for low- and middle- income households across America.
School Breakfast Program (SBP) & National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
Did you know that over 100,000 public, non-profit private schools, and residential child care institutions provide a free or reduced-cost breakfast and/or lunch option to help meet kids daily nutritional needs? In 1946, President Harry S. Truman signed the National School Lunch Act and nearly thirty years later, in 1975, the School Breakfast program received permanent authorization. Both are federal assistance meal programs funded through the United States Department of Agriculture.
Are you interested in learning if your family is eligible for free or reduced-cost school meals? You can find more information at the Food Research Action Center (FRAC). Applications vary by state so its best to contact your local school directly or keep an eye on the papers coming home, as an application may already be included.
Participation & Effects
In the 2008-2009 year, about 10 million children participated in the breakfast and lunch federal assistance meal programs on a typical day. Schools with Universal Breakfast, where breakfast is available at no charge to all students, report decreases in discipline and psychological problems, visits to school nurses and tardiness; increases in student attentiveness and attendance; and generally improved learning environments. Likewise, a study by Harvard Medical/Massachusetts General Hospital in the Boston Public Schools stated, "Students in this study who increased their school breakfast participation reported fewer indicators of hunger and improved nutrition, academic performance and emotional functioning."
Beyond Breakfast and Lunch
It’s not only during school hours that kids require food, after school and weekends are also times when many kids are looking for snacks or meals. In addition to the National School Meals, nonprofit Kids Cafe® (KC) Afterschool Programs provide nutritious snacks and meals to children aged 5-18 in safe, accessible community locations, and many sites also offer nutrition education, homework help, and community enrichment. The Weekend Bag (WB)/Backpack Program seeks to meet the nutrition needs of kids who rely on free and reduced cost school breakfasts and lunches during the week by sending shelf-stable food home in child-friendly bags for kids to eat when away from school.
To find out if KC, the Weekend Bag/Backpack or other similar programs are available in your area, please find your local food bank through the following link and contact them directly for site locations, if any, and other details, http://feedingamerica.org/foodbank-results.aspx
Does your community have other programs that help provide healthy food to your kids throughout the school day and beyond? What other suggestions do you have for low-cost or free ways to help ensure kids get enough nutritious food on a regular basis?