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Here Are The North Texas School Districts Going Beyond School Lunch

School districts ranking high in feeding low-income students supplement the traditional cafeteria line with breakfast in the classroom using a grab-and-go model.
School districts ranking high in feeding low-income students supplement the traditional cafeteria line with breakfast in the classroom using a grab-and-go model.

Irving, Dallas, Garland, Crowley and Arlington all rank highly among Texas school districts when it comes to feeding students in need.

That's according to a new list from the advocacy non-profit Children At Risk. They ranked districts across the state based on whether or not they're providing low-income students with breakfast, lunch and after-school meals. 

Jenny Eyer is the director of child health research and policy for the organization. She says there wasn't always a push from school districts to prioritize student nutrition. 

"When we asked school districts when they fed students, the time that they would only really concentrate on food is around testing," Eyer says. "Now, we're getting districts to recognize the full year-long benefit of making sure kids have access to food." 

Eyers says school districts that top the list are typically serving meals in ways that are unconventional. 

"It's not just serving breakfast in a line before school starts," she says. "They're serving breakfast in the classroom or using a grab-and-go model. They're doing something to make it easier for kids to eat breakfast." 

That's what helped Irving ISD nab the sixth spot on the list of districts overall. The Dallas Morning News reports Irving uses grab-and-go hallway carts to help kids catch a bite to eat on their way to class. 

Children At Risk says those efforts lead to better performance in the classroom, as well as less absenteeism and fewer visits to the school nurse. 

The list looks at school districts with at least 10,000 students, with at least 60 percent of those students eligible for free and reduced meals. 

Children At Risk has three separate rankings: districts overall, large districts and "middle-income" districts. 

Eyer says that distinction is important because large and middle-income districts have some unique hurdles. Larger districts like Dallas ISD must contend with a huge population of students, while "middle-income" districts serve students from a wider range of economic backgrounds.

"Those districts have some campuses with high-income students," Eyer says. "Those students aren't going to come to school and eat breakfast because they can get it at home. We don't want to penalize those districts for having a wide range of backgrounds." 

Check out the rankings below: 

Top Texas school districts, overall

1. Donna ISD 
2. Clint ISD 
3. San Antonio ISD
4. McAllen ISD
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

Miguel Perez is an assistant producer at KERA. He produces local content for Morning Edition and KERA News. He also produces The Friday Conversation, a weekly interview series with North Texas newsmakers.