KNOXVILLE - Tennessee is among the top states in the nation in reaching children in need with school breakfast programs.
A new study from the Food Research and Action Center ranks Tennessee 10th for the number of low-income children in a school lunch program who also participate at breakfast.
At Knox County Schools, Jon Dickl, the director of School Nutrition, says breakfast is becoming more and more popular with students from all economic backgrounds.
"We've seen significant growth," Dickl said. "This is my third school year that I'm in. My first year here we had one out of 10 students participating in breakfast. Today we have one out of four."
Dickl says logistics can often hamper participation at breakfast, so school officials have been able to expand by offering various alternatives.
"Three years ago, we had one breakfast-in-the-classroom program," she said. "Today, we have 22. We have four grab-and-go breakfast cart programs at the high schools that we're operating right now. And we have two high schools that are doing a second breakfast."
The increase in students taking part in breakfast options at school, Dickl said, is already paying off academically and socially.
"We have teachers commenting about how much more calm the students are when they sit down," she said, "how much more prepared they are to learn. Behavior issues are dropping. The tardiness issues are getting better. We're really seeing a significant impact."
Currently, about 58 percent of low-income Tennessee students in the lunch program also participate in breakfast. If that figure were raised to 70 percent, the state would receive an additional $14 million in federal funding.