Hunger-Free Minnesota Announces Initiative to Increase Participation in School Breakfast Program

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Eating school breakfast improves academic performance.

Hunger Free Minnesota

Each school has a unique set of circumstances and population. There also are some methods in use, however, that are proven, and other schools can adopt them if they have some additional funding and support.

Hunger-Free Minnesota ( announced today that it is launching a program to increase participation in the United States Department of Agriculture-funded School Breakfast Program (SBP) as a way to help improve performance by low-income students while it helps to close the missing meal gap in Minnesota.

Beginning with this fall, Hunger-Free Minnesota will initially work closely with five participating school districts that will adopt and/or showcase their best practices in delivering effective school breakfast programs. Participating districts are Minneapolis, St. Paul, Austin, Rochester and West St. Paul/Eagan/Mendota Heights.

At full potential, the SBP can provide 48 million meals per school year in Minnesota to those who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and breakfast. General Mills and the Midwest Dairy Council are partnering with the Hunger-Free Minnesota coalition on this key initiative.

A published study that assessed the impact of an earlier Minnesota school breakfast pilot program found that students who at breakfast in school performed better, recorded higher test scores in math and reading and experienced reduced absenteeism and tardiness than those who did not have a school breakfast. As a corollary, the negative impact of hunger on school-age children is immense, according to the 2010 Cost/Benefit Hunger Impact Study.

  •     Hungry children are twice as likely to repeat a grade.
  •     Hungry school-age children are three times more likely to be suspended from school.
  •     Food insecure children are three times more likely to suffer from poor health, which can lead to extended absenteeism.

“Each school year, low-income Minnesota children are missing 29 million breakfasts that they could be getting through an existing, federally funded program,” said Ellie Lucas, chief campaign officer for Hunger-Free Minnesota. “With more than 300,000 Minnesota children eligible for free and reduced-priced school breakfasts, there is an imperative to make better use of these meal programs to improve academic performance and to improve health.”

Data compiled by EnSearch, Inc., shows that Minnesota school districts are only serving 39 percent of the available meals under the USDA-funded School Breakfast Program. Hunger-Free Minnesota has a goal of increasing school breakfast programs usage by 4 million meals by 2015.

Increasing participation not ‘one-size-fits-all”
The SBP initiative aims to find new ways to increase participation, whether by removing barriers or increasing incentives. With school districts currently participating in the SBP, it is clear that solutions for increased participation are widely varied. What works in Mankato may not fit Aitkin and vice versa. The SBP initiative aims to provide support for a ‘menu’ of proven solutions and to let school districts or local schools choose what works best for them.

Jason Reed, director of strategy and corporate partnerships for Hunger-Free Minnesota said, “Each school has a unique set of circumstances and population. There also are some methods in use, however, that are proven, and other schools can adopt them if they have some additional funding and support.”

Reed says partnering with the school districts, Hunger-Free Minnesota will help identify what needs to be done to reduce barriers and will work with its coalition partners to provide additional resources to support these and other schools in their efforts.

About Hunger-Free Minnesota
Hunger-Free Minnesota is a three-year campaign is to close the 100 million missing-meal gap in Minnesota. Among its partners and supporters are community leaders and citizens, nonprofit agencies and organizations, food banks, food shelves, and corporations including General Mills, Cargill, UnitedHealth Group, Hormel Foods, Land O’Lakes, and others. Hunger-Free Minnesota’s strategic action plan focuses on emergency food system capacity, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and child hunger and nutrition. The campaign encourages individuals and organizations to “Fight Hunger Where You Live.” More information is available at

2011/2012 Data from EnSearch, Inc.
Minnesota School Breakfast Infographic

Cost/Benefit Hunger Impact Study (2010), Target and the University of Minnesota Food Industry Center; Minnesota School Breakfast Data (2010-2011), data from Minnesota Department of Education, analysis by Hunger-Free Minnesota; Impact of School Breakfast on Children’s Health and Learning (2008), Sodexo Foundation; More than Test Scores: Results of the Universal School Breakfast Pilot in Minnesota (1999), K.L. Wahlstrom, Topics in Clinical Nutrition.

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