For the second year in a row, Kentucky has ranked fifth on the Food Research & Action Center's (FRAC) School Breakfast Scorecard.
Kate McDonald, Kentucky Kid's Eat coordinator, said FRAC is a national anti-hunger nonprofit. The scorecard looks at the United States Department of Agriculture's data about school breakfast participation each year and track which schools are doing best.
McDonald said FRAC's scorecards look at the number of children who qualify for free or reduced lunch and see how many of them are also getting breakfast. She said through the School Breakfast Program, which is federally funded, any student who qualifies for free or reduced lunch also qualifies for breakfast.
According to a news release from Feeding Kentucky, the state's School Breakfast Program has reached 67.4 low-income children for every 100 who participated in school lunch.
"This is really exciting, because the national goal is to reach 70%," McDonald said. She explained that 70% participation is just a stepping stone.
"We want every kid to be getting breakfast who needs it," McDonald said.
McDonald said one of the main issues schools face when trying to get their percentage up is time. The general notion of school breakfast is one that is held before the school day starts in the cafeteria. She said another issue schools deal with is that students don't want to deal with the stigma of being a part of free or reduced lunch and breakfast.
"It's exciting that so many schools and districts have started to use alternative breakfast models," McDonald said. She explained one such model is for schools to serve breakfast not just in the cafeteria, but also in other areas of the school.
She said some schools will serve breakfast in the classroom while others may have carts stationed in hubs of activity where students can pick up their breakfast and eat it on the go.
"Kids aren't naturally in the cafeteria," McDonald explained. She then said these different ways of serving breakfast can help with the time issue some students face when trying to get breakfast.
She went on to say some schools also offer second chance breakfast, where breakfast may be served again after the first or second period of classes for students who couldn't make it in time or weren't hungry for the first serving of breakfast.
One way Kentucky schools are looking to stop stigmas from keeping students from getting breakfast is through the program known as Community Eligibility.
McDonald described the program as a powerful tool for high poverty schools to provide breakfast and lunch to all students for free.
She said, essentially, the program allows schools that have a significant portion of students that qualify for free lunch to provide meals for free to every student.
"School breakfast is one of the best ways to boost student achievement, reduce absenteeism and improve student nutrition," McDonald said in the news release.