The Latest: 17 New Cases Statewide; DOE Improves Free School Breakfast Program During Pandemic

Feb 16, 2021

Updated 2/16/21, 12:43 p.m.

Hawaii ranked second-to-last in providing school breakfasts to low-income students, but the tide may have shifted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the School Breakfast Scorecard from the Food Research and Action Center, more than 25,000 low-income children in Hawaii took part in the national school breakfast program last school year. That's 40% of all students who received school lunches, which is below the national average of 58%.

However, the report only includes data up to February 2020, when schools across the country closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, the Department of Education started a grab-and-go model at over 200 schools statewide. Free breakfast and lunch are available for children under the age of 18, even if they are not enrolled at the school.

The Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice has monitored the ranking for years, and has been working with the DOE to improve those numbers.

"We were working with the schools food services branch to implement kind of innovative breakfast models," said Daniela Spoto, director of anti-hunger initiatives at Hawaii Appleseed.

"Things like breakfast in the classroom or Grab & Go breakfast where kids could grab it before school and go into their classroom. And we were piloting this at a few school systems with successful results."

Spoto says it was exciting to see schools had to changing to a grab-and-go model due to the pandemic. She is hopeful when students return to the classrooms that schools will continue to offer grab-and-go breakfasts.

The school meals are required to include protein and whole grains, and teachers have noted student concentration is improved when they have eaten breakfast.

-- HPR's Jason Ubay

Where we stand

The state Department of Health reported 17 new cases and one new fatality on Tuesday. 

According to the state's numbers, Oʻahu had 13, Maui 3, and Hawaiʻi Island, Kauaʻi, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi had no new cases. One resident was diganosed out-of-state.

The latest state count brings the Oʻahu total to 21,633, Hawaiʻi County 2,216, Maui 1,950, Kauaʻi 179, Lānaʻi 109, and Molokaʻi 26. The number of out-of-state cases totals 793.

Since the pandemic began, the state has tallied 26,906 cases. The death toll stands at 426.