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Missouri Schools See Rise in Students Qualifying for Free or Reduced Priced Meals

Joplin school leaders say they've added about 200 meals per day across the district to help with the increased need and the push to make sure kids are eating breakfast.
JOPLIN, MO.--- More students are starting their school day with full stomachs. More kids are qualifying for the free and reduced breakfast and lunch at school. Missouri schools have seen a 2% increase. Joplin school leaders say they've added about 200 meals per day across the district to help with the increased need and the push to make sure kids are eating breakfast.

"1,550 breakfast in previous years and now we're up to 17 almost 1,800 breakfast everyday," said Rick Kenkel, Joplin Schools Food Service Director. 

Rick Kenkel is the Joplin schools food service director. He says a lot of the increase has to do with the need for financial assistance.

"Reduced breakfast in the morning really gives them that extra push or otherwise they come to school, go to class, and they don't get that extra nutrition that they truly need," said Kenkel. 

He says there's also a push from school administrators and the government for morning meal participation. 

"They've even offered incentives for school districts to increase breakfast participation by 25 percent," said Kenkel. 

Kenkel says if there's low participation, that could possibly mean kids are missing meals and hungry children is the main issue they're trying to avoid. 

"I think we've seen more referrals to the nurse or tummy aches or head aches during the early part of the morning, you know, because that student didn't have breakfast," said Kenkel. 
 
He emphasizes breakfast is the most important meal, especially for children. 

"I think it's giving them the nourishment and the energy they need to learn," said Kenkel. 

According to the Food Research and Action Center, more than 90% of Missouri schools participate in the breakfast program, and about 53% students take advantage of it.

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