Across Texas, over 3 million low-income students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals through federal programs such as the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. For many of these children, meals eaten at school are the only substantial meals they will receive during the day. School districts are critical players in implementing school food programs – yet, some districts are doing better than others in providing breakfast, lunch, and after-school meals to students in need. With nearly 2 million food-insecure children in Texas, it is imperative that school districts ensure our children are consistently getting nutritious meals.
CHILDREN AT RISK announced its’ Texas School Food Rankings at a press conference on March 20, 2019. The rankings analysis evaluates how districts across Texas provide meals to low-income school children by focusing on meal participation rates and after-school meal programs offered in each district. The Texas School Food Rankings recognize the schools that are doing an excellent job at ensuring Texas’ students are getting nutritious meals throughout the day.
Children at Risk’s Food Ranking methodology consists of measuring the participation rate of School Nutrition Programs (SNP) across districts. These districts are then assigned a score based on the participation rates for each program, which is weighted and aggregated. The aggregate scores are ranked from highest to lowest to create the Food Rankings.
School Breakfast is weighted the highest in our analysis for various reasons: research suggests that providing The School Breakfast Program (SBP) can improve student attendance, increases their academic performance, and reduces discipline problems in the classroom. The struggle to obtain a nutritious breakfast particularly affects low-income households, but many families find that early morning schedules make it difficult to find time to prepare and eat a nutritious breakfast at home.
Children at Risk utilizes Texas Department of Agriculture data and Texas Education Agency data to generate the district scores and district rankings.
Students who are not hungry and have eaten nutritious meals are healthier and ready to learn. The school districts at the top of our rankings are doing the very best at making sure low-income students have one of the most important tools they need to be successful in the classroom.Dr. Bob Sanborn
Among large school districts, San Antonio ISD and Dallas ISD lead the way, while districts in the Lubbock and El Paso region stand out among medium-sized districts. The top school districts in the state have as many as 80-90% of low-income students participating in school lunch and breakfast.
• Dallas ISD ranks 2nd among large school districts and 12th among all districts, with 75% of eligible students participating in school lunch and 63% participating in breakfast.
• The top 5 school districts (with at least 10,000 students and 60% economically disadvantaged) in the Texas School Food Rankings are Donna ISD, Clint City CISD, San Antonio ISD, McAllen ISD, and Idea Academy.
• The top 5 large school districts (at least 50,000 students and 60% economically disadvantaged) in the Texas School Food Rankings are San Antonio ISD, Dallas ISD, El Paso ISD, Houston ISD, and Arlington ISD.
• The top 5 medium-income districts (60-70% economically disadvantaged), which often face more challenges in implementing school food programs to scale, are Lubbock ISD, El Paso ISD, Wichita ISD, Crowley ISD, and Spring ISD.
• Nearly half of school districts (over 10,000 students) implement the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) after-school meal program.
• The strongest 10 districts had over 70% of eligible students participating in breakfast programs, while the weakest 10 districts – including several charter districts – had breakfast participation rates as low as 10-35%.
Many school districts have high levels of student participation in their meal programs by offering a more varied menu and using alternative delivery methods. When participation is high, school nutrition departments can reach more students in need and take advantage of economies of scale to optimize their meal costs and further improve service.
“We want to highlight and learn from these top districts that are doing the best job of feeding our low-income students. This is also an opportunity to raise awareness about best practices that will help all Texas school districts ensure the health and wellbeing of our students in need is a top priority,” says Dr. Sanborn.
School food programs play a crucial role in reducing hunger and improving the health of children in Texas – and these programs are also linked to better academic performance. A better-nourished child is a better learner and participant in school, with less absenteeism and tardiness, and fewer visits to the school nurse.
TOP TEXAS SCHOOL DISTRICTS (Overall)
1. DONNA ISD
2. CLINT ISD
3. SAN ANTONIO ISD
4. MCALLEN ISD
5. IDEA ACADEMY
6. IRVING ISD
7. HARLANDALE ISD
8. RIO GRANDE CITY ISD
9. WESLACO ISD
10. BROWNSVILLE ISD
TOP Large Districts
1. SAN ANTONIO ISD
2. DALLAS ISD
3. EL PASO ISD
4. HOUSTON ISD
5. ARLINGTON ISD
TOP MIddle Income DISTRICTS
1. LUBBOCK ISD
2. EL PASO ISD
3. WICHITA FALLS ISD
4. CROWLEY ISD
5. SPRING ISD
6. AMARILLO ISD
7. ARLINGTON ISD
8. GARLAND ISD
9. NEW CANEY ISD
10. EAST CENTRAL ISD