Above, Pedro Gonzalez starts the day right at Esperanza Elementary School, one of more than 600 campuses participating in Breakfast in the Classroom. 

Lizbeth Ortiz, left, and Zaira Lopez-Santos include milk and juice in their healthy breakfast at Esperanza Elementary School.

L.A. Unified serves breakfast to more low-income students than any district in the nation, with nearly 290,000 youngsters consuming the first meal of the day after they arrive at school, a study released today says.

According to the annual report by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), a national anti-hunger advocacy group, L.A. Unified offered free breakfast to students at 880 of its schools in 2015-16.

More than 600 schools participate in the Breakfast in the Classroom program, while a dozen serve a “grab-and-go” meal, and 37 open their campus cafeteria before the first bell rings.

“Our goal is to provide a healthy school breakfast to as many children as we can to ensure that our students are getting the nutrition they need to learn and thrive in the classroom,” said Joseph Vaughn, the director of Food Services for L.A. Unified. “School breakfast means less hunger, healthier kids and improved educational outcomes for our students.”

FRAC’s goal is for school districts to serve breakfast to 70 low-income students for every 100 who participate in the school lunch program. L.A. Unified exceeds this goal, serving about 40,000 more breakfast meals than lunches on the average day.

L.A. Unified is the top-ranked large school district in breakfast participation, thanks to students like Alejandra Garcia at Esperanza Elementary.

In addition, the number of District students receiving breakfast increased more than 3 percent in 2015-16 from the prior year, with nearly 9,000 more youngsters participating in the program.

Approximately 405,000 students, or 72.4 percent, of L.A. Unified students qualified for free and reduced-price meals, based on their family’s income.

“To be the top-ranked large school district in breakfast participation means we have a stellar support system,” Vaughn said. “From the superintendent and School Board to our dynamic Food Services staff,  our concerted efforts have paved the way to earning this incredible achievement. More than 4,500 Food Service employees make nutrition a priority for all students in our District and we are proud to serve them each day.”