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New report and programs aims to increase breakfast awareness for students

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One in four kids are at risk of hunger. Now one local organization and a few local school districts are looking to do something about it, by promoting a free breakfast-for-all program.

Six local school districts in Central Texas participate in a universal-free breakfast. Those schools include Waco, La Vega, Mart, Bosqueville, Connally, and Bartlett ISD. School officials say the program works and they recommend it to others.

The concept of a school provided  breakfast was created to feed those kids who might not get that meal at home.

For most school districts around the state that service is provided free of charge to only students in poverty. To change the perception of a school funded meal for a specific student, a few local school districts offer a free meal to all students regardless of their economic background. This has increased participation levels in the breakfast program.

"I know a couple of elementary schools in Dallas that we have done work with. Before they  implemented universal school breakfast they averaged 30 percent participation, once they went to a  universal model their rates increased to 75 percent," Texas Hunger Initiative Director of Research Kathy Krey said.

Researchers and school officials say when students eat, it has a great impact on their behavior.

"You know that if you are really hungry the last thing you are going to be able to do is concentrate on math or reading so by insuring that the kids have breakfast in the morning we know that they are going to be able to pay attention in school, when they pay attention in school they do better," Texas Hunger Initiative Director Jeremy Everett said.

As a result of more kids eating breakfast, researchers have seen higher test scores, lower absenteeism and tardiness, and improvement in discipline.

"Any efforts a school can take to increase participation in school breakfast has benefits for those students, for their learning potential, for their disciplinary issues they may have," Krey said.

Only 25 percent of schools in the state offer this service to students, but researchers say they think more school districts will participate in the future. Not because of the improvement in the academic performance in their students, but because it doesn't put a financial burden on school districts.

"When schools who do alternative breakfast programs like the breakfast in the classroom model their participation rates are so high that it reduces cost of food because of the economies of scales," Everett said.

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