GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - School systems in North Carolina and South Carolina are among 15 nationwide where students will be able to eat breakfast at school for free this year.
The Breakfast in the Classroom program uses a $5 million grant from the Walmart Foundation to feed students. The program began last year in five school districts and is adding 10 this year, including Guilford County schools in Greensboro and Charleston County schools in South Carolina.
"The Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom and the participating school districts understand the important role food plays in helping our children grow into healthy and well-educated young adults," said Julie Gehrki, senior director of the Walmart Foundation. "By working community-by-community to address the issue of child hunger at the local level, we are making changes that will benefit the lives of thousands of our nation's children."
Several groups collaborate on the program, which provides a free breakfast to all students. The meal is provided in the classroom, not the cafeteria.
"The benefits for children eating breakfast at school are well-documented and expansive, with reported improvements to standardized test scores, vocabulary, concentration, and behavior," said Mark Terry, president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, speaking on behalf of the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom. "Serving breakfast to students in the classroom is not only a way to infuse nutrition into their daily diets, but build a classroom community by starting the day with a meal together. We are pleased with the continued expansion of the Breakfast in the Classroom program, helping more children start the new school year and subsequently every day off in a healthy way."
Officials say many students eligible for the federally funded school breakfast program don't participate for several reasons, including that they don't want to be labeled as low-income, bus schedules and arriving late to school.
*ABC News 4 contributed to this report