|For Immediate Release|
|Monday, December 18, 1995|
Massachusetts Receives National Honor for School Breakfast Increase
Malden - State Commissioner of Education Robert V. Antonucci announced today that a national report on states' School Breakfast Programs ranks Massachusetts second in the nation this past year in increasing the participation by low-income children in the school breakfast program.
The School Breakfast Score Card, issued by the non-profit and non-partisan Food Research and Action Center of Washington, D.C., also gave Massachusetts a four-star rating (the highest possible) for its overall effort to expand the school breakfast program in school year 1994-1995. A daily average of 103,709 low-income students ate a school breakfast in the 1994-1995 school year, up from 74,515 the year before.
Massachusetts communities showing the greatest increase in participation included Springfield, Boston, Lowell, Lawrence, Lynn, Methuen, Taunton, Fall River, Barnstable, Cambridge and Chicopee.
In the 1994-95 school year alone, over 15 million breakfasts were served to Massachusetts students in 1204 schools across the Commonwealth, an increase of almost 9% from the 1993-94 school year.
The School Breakfast Program, permanently authorized by Congress in 1975, was established to assist schools in providing nutritious breakfasts for their students. It is an entitlement program which is available to public or non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions which choose to participate. In 1986, Massachusetts enacted a statute which mandates participation in the School Breakfast Program by those schools with a high percentage of low-income students, and Massachusetts provides state funds to supplement the federal reimbursement if it does not cover the costs.
In January of 1993, Chapter 414 of the Acts of 1992 was passed by the Massachusetts state legislature and signed into law by Governor Weld. The bill directs the Massachusetts Department of Education to establish an outreach program with a goal of increasing participation in both the School Breakfast Program and the Summer Food Service Outreach Program. According to Commissioner Antonucci, the 1994-95 outreach campaign, "School Breakfast - It's for Everyone" included public-service announcements on radio and television, billboards on highways and stickers and posters for students, prepared in cooperation with the state organization Project Bread.
"We're very pleased that the report acknowledges the significant effort we have made in the Commonwealth to enable every child to begin the day with a nutritious breakfast. On a daily basis, about 30,000 more low-income students in Massachusetts received breakfast at school last year. We're very encouraged by those numbers, as research clearly shows that students perform and learn better if they have had a good breakfast," said Commissioner Antonucci.
"School breakfast is very important as a support for those children whose families cannot afford to serve breakfast at home everyday, and also for those children whose families are too busy to provide one," Antonucci noted.
One community which has seen a rise in participation in the School Breakfast Program is North Adams. Rose Goddard, Food Service Director in the North Adams Public Schools, attributes much of the increase to school principals and health coordinators working in tandem to encourage students to eat a healthy breakfast. "I firmly believe that the breakfast program serves a valuable alternative for all children," says Goddard.
"At the middle school level, the principal and the health coordinators decided to allow all students to enter the school earlier in the morning rather than waiting outside. Students who were participating in the breakfast program had been allowed to go in, but now other students decided to eat breakfast simply because they were allowed into the building on the floor where the breakfast was served. The access to the building helped to reduce some of the stigma associated with eating a school breakfast," Goddard added.
At the Bailey International School in Lowell, an average of over 300 of the 494 students eat school breakfast on a daily basis. The high level of participation is the result of a caring cafeteria staff and a total school commitment to serve the needs of every child, according to Principal Mary Ann McCarthy. "We make a concerted effort to be sure that every parent is aware of our breakfast program. We translate our forms for second-language families, follow-up with phone calls, and make it as easy as possible to participate in the program."
Across the state, communities have initiated breakfast programs in recent years. Milton, Stoughton and Foxborough are not mandated to have a breakfast program, for example, but have taken the initiative to start one in response to community needs.