Number Of Free School Meals Rising In Ohio

Jan 27, 2014

A report by a non-profit advocacy group called The Food Research and Action Center shows 11 thousand more low-income Ohio children got free or reduced-price school breakfasts last year.

That is an increase of 3.4 percent from the previous school year. The Children's Hunger Alliance has been working with districts to help them tailor meal programs to meet the needs of students. Spokesperson Charlie Kozlesky says school breakfast helps families make ends meet, and helps improve academic achievement.

Kozlesky:  There is research all around the world that basically states that if you offer children breakfast as part of the school day, their test scores are improving, and their behavioral problems are decreasing.  I've been in schools where families, parents, are saying: "Thank you for the breakfast program.  We didn't have the money to feed our children every morning; this helps."

Kozlesky says many Ohio districts are using strategies to increase participation and reduce the stigma associated with a free or reduced-price meal. //A program that allows districts in high-poverty areas to serve free school meals to all children is operating in Ohio. Food Research and Action Center President Jim Weill says it's rolling out nationally this fall.

Weill: It's a great new system  for schools with a lot of low-income kids called "Community Elegibility"  They don't need individual paper or online applications any more, they get higher federal reimbursement, and that's going to give schools a whole new shot at really upping their game.

Nearly 11-million low-income children in the U.S. participated in the free school breakfast program on an average day last year, an increase of three percent from the previous year.