Missouri is making progress in reaching more low-income children with school breakfast, according to a new national report released.

Public schools served nearly 54 low-income children breakfast for each 100 who received lunch during the 2011-12 school year, an increase from the previous school year when a ratio of 51:100 received breakfast, the study found.

In the Washington School District, a total of 63,221 free/reduced breakfasts were served during the 2011-12 school year, according to Jill Poepsel, director of dietary services.

That same year, 171,979 free/reduced lunches were served, she said.

These numbers do not reflect the number of full-price meals served.

During the 2010-11 school year, Poepsel said 64,256 free/reduced breakfasts and 164,515 free/reduced lunches were served.

“There are no reports available for this year yet, but we are serving more total breakfasts this year than last,” she noted.

Increasing participatation in the breakfast program, especially for free/reduced students is a goal, Poepsel said.

“In our food service department here, we realize that good nutrition and education work together, and that a child who is hungry may not reach their potential,” she said. “We want to make sure every child has the opportunity to reach their maximum learning potential through good nutrition.”

State officials say breakfast programs improve school attendance and student behavior, boost learning and test scores, and improve student health.

The progress being made statewide in reaching more children with breakfast should be celebrated, but even more important is sustaining momentum and reaching all hungry children who need it, said Jeanette Mott Oxford, executive director of Missouri Association for Social Welfare (MASW).

The School Breakfast Scorecard, released annually by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), measures the reach of the School Breakfast Program nationally and by state. The FRAC report found that school breakfast nationally hit two milestones in participation during the 2011-12 school year, both with the number of low-income students eating breakfast at school and the number of schools offering breakfast.

For the first time nationally, more than half of all low-income students who participated in school lunch also participated in school breakfast. Additionally more than 90 percent of schools that operate the National School Lunch Program also offered the School Breakfast Program.

Such milestones, noted the FRAC report, were largely driven by efforts at the federal, state, and local level to eliminate barriers, streamline administrative processes, and adopt new “in-classroom” breakfast strategies.

Overall, more than 10.5 million children received a free or reduced-price breakfast each school day during the 2011-12 school year, an increase of 738,869 children from the previous year.