Fewer kids ate lunch under first year of new meal pattern

Breakfast participation, however, saw an increase.

Aug. 22—Fewer kids ate school lunch last year after new nutrition standards put more vegetables and fewer french fries on their plates. But breakfast consumption at schools rose as more places started offering the meal in creative ways and often at no charge.

Government data show that average daily participation in school lunches decreased about 3% from 31.9 million students a day during the 2011-2012 school year to 30.9 million during the 2012-2013 school year. The biggest drop came in students who pay for their own lunch, not those who get it at a free or reduced price lunch.

Meanwhile, participation in school breakfast -- which is getting a nutrition makeover this year -- went up by about 2.5% during that same time period. The number of kids eating school breakfast daily increased from 12.81 million in 2011-2012 to 13.15 million during 2012-2013, partly due to the increase in children getting free breakfasts.