K-12 EDUCATION

Free student breakfast program helps feed long-term success

Mar 15, 2023, 11:00 AM

school breakfast from program is pictured...

Breakfast is served at Guadalupe Charter School on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in Salt Lake City. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new report showed Utah’s free school breakfast program grew faster than any other state in 2022. In fact, Utah tripled the number of meals it gave away last year.

According to Child Nutrition Advocate for Utahns Against Hunger, Neil Rickard, Utah grew so fast because, in part, it had so much ground to cover. In terms of school-provided breakfasts, Utah outgrew every other state except the District of Columbia. That was an increase of 286% from the previous year.

Also, Utah improved at distributing meals to hungry kids because the state’s school meal infrastructure grew quickly to meet demand.

Rickard said this means higher graduation rates and lower obesity in the long term. Additionally, it shows that more kids are willing to eat when they’re hungry.

Rickard said that some kids do not want to be seen getting a free meal. 

“But if everybody is getting it, the stigma is not there,” he said. Rickard went on to say that the school breakfast program does more than feed students.

“It is really an investment over the long term, not a short term,” he said. “If you want to talk in terms of just figures…you’re lowering dropout rates or improving the long-term success of your students, especially those students who are at risk due to intergenerational poverty issue.”

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Free student breakfast program helps feed long-term success