Nutrition Services for Homeless Students- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Office for Food and Nutrition Programs

Nutrition Services for Homeless Students

To:District Level Homeless Education Liaisons
Copy:School Nutrition and Foodservice Directors
From:John L. G. Bynoe III, Associate Commissioner, Center for Student Support, Career and Education Services
Date:February 12, 2008


Please help us ensure that homeless students access all of the benefits available to them at school!

According to a report released by the DOE in July 2007 entitled "A Snapshot of Homelessness in Massachusetts Public High Schools," there are an estimated 48,000 homeless students enrolled in Massachusetts public schools. This number far exceeds the 7,085 homeless students identified by schools and suggests that only one out of every seven homeless students is being identified. The report, based on data from the 2005 MA Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) and MA Annual Homeless Enrollment Data, highlights that homeless students participate in risk behaviors more frequently than housed students and are less likely to benefit from the so-called "protective factors" schools provide to ensure their students' successful development. Academically, homeless students are less likely to earn good grades than housed students. Nutritionally, only 23% of homeless students eat breakfast compared to 33% of housed students. The report also explains that the stigma associated with homelessness often prevents students from utilizing the resources available to them at school.

One important resource available to homeless students is school breakfast. Research shows that increasing school breakfast participation is associated with improved math grades, nutrition, school attendance, and emotional functioning. Homeless students are categorically eligible for free school meals through the McKinney-Vento Act and do not need to complete a school meals application. Instead, homeless liaisons must submit to the school food service director the name and effective date for each student identified as homeless. As liaison, you must provide your signature to the list of names or include an email signature of the list if it is sent electronically.

For more information on strategies for increasing school breakfast participation, please contact the Department's Child Nutrition Outreach Program at Project Bread at 617-723-5000. Thank you for your support.

Last Updated: March 12, 2008

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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