March 4, 2019
More Allegheny County schools are feeding breakfast to students who qualify, putting many on track to meet Gov. Tom Wolf’s goal of providing breakfast to at least 60 percent of eligible students by 2020, advocates say.
In its annual report, released Monday, Pittsburgh nonprofit Allies for Children said more local schools and districts implemented “alternative” breakfast models last school year, and as a result are serving nearly 600 more students breakfast each day than they were during the 2016-17 school year.
Allies for Children, in partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, worked with five Allegheny County school districts last year to implement the alternative models beyond simply serving the breakfast in the cafeteria before the start of the school day, which most districts already do. The alternatives included a “grab and go” mobile cart, offering breakfast for a time after the first bell rings and offering breakfast during students’ first class of the day.
Each of the five districts that implemented an alternative model — Gateway, North Hills, Sto-Rox, South Allegheny and West Mifflin — saw a greater increase in student breakfast participation than most other Allegheny County school districts and charter schools, all of which were included in the Breakfast Basics 2019 Update report.
“We know alternative breakfast models and other innovative breakfast practices help increase participation, and we also know that what works for each school is different,” said Chris West, child nutrition outreach coordinator for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, in a statement.
Allies for Children estimates that there are about 22,000 students in Allegheny County eligible for free or reduced meals who don’t eat the school breakfasts even though they eat the school lunch. According to the nonprofit, for every 100 Allegheny County students who eat free or reduced lunch at school, 57 students also eat breakfast at school. The statewide average is 53 students eating breakfast for every 100 students who eat free or reduced lunch.
But advocates said the results of this year’s report show promise, and that a number of local districts are on track to meet the governor’s goal to serve breakfast to at least 60 percent of eligible students by next year. A dozen Allegheny County districts already meet that 60 percent target, the report said, while a number of districts and schools continue to fall short.
And Allegheny County district numbers are expected to continue improving, with the help of grant money from the Pennsylvania Department of Education that was made available for school breakfast programs last year.
“We anticipate the 2019-2020 school year could be the year Allegheny County schools meet Governor Wolf’s goal of 60 percent of free and reduced eligible students eating both breakfast and lunch,” said Patrick Dowd, executive director of Allies for Children, in a press release.
Elizabeth Behrman: Lbehrman@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1590 or @Ebehrman on Twitter.