PORTLAND, Ore. - Nationwide and in Oregon, about half the children who are eligible for the federal free school lunch program also get breakfast at school. That is major progress, according to a new report from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).
Last year, Oregon raised the number of pupils starting out with a healthy school breakfast by more than 5 percent.
Serving breakfast is up to each district or even individual schools, depending on the need and their budgets.
Lesley Nelson, child hunger prevention manager with Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, says more could sign on.
"Right now, we're at 52 out of 100," Nelson said. "If we could get that number to 70, that would mean an additional 39,000 kids a year would be able to eat breakfast, and we would be bringing in about $9.7 million in additional federal funding."
The report highlights figures from urban schools, but Nelson says rural schools have even more challenges serving breakfast because of the distance involved in getting children to school early enough to eat before classes begin.
More Oregon children qualify for the meals since the recession, she adds.
Crystal FitzSimons, director of school programs for FRAC, says some of the most successful school breakfast programs involve thinking outside the box -- or the cafeteria -- and feeding pupils in the classrooms. That way, she says, no one is singled out, and kids don't have to get to school earlier.
"We call that breakfast in the classroom, or 'grab-and-go' breakfast," FitzSimons said. "And so, the kids are able to eat with their classmates; they eat while the teacher is taking attendance or doing the first morning lesson. And they're able to start the school day ready to learn, because they've had a healthy breakfast."
The report says about 115,000 children in Oregon get free or reduced-price breakfasts at school. See it online at FRAC.org.