A picture of Representative James P. McGovern
James M.
Democrat MA 2

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  • School Breakfast Program

    by Representative James P. McGovern

    Posted on 2015-02-10

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    McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I rise to highlight two important new reports released today by the Food Research and Action Center, or FRAC, on the School Breakfast Program. FRAC's reports--the School Breakfast Scorecard, and School Breakfast: Making it Work in Large School Districts--show that we have made progress in expanding access to school breakfast but that work remains to be done.

    During the 2013-2014 school year, 11.2 million students received a healthy school breakfast on the average schoolday. That is an average of 320,000 more students per day who received school breakfasts than the year before. The reports show that more students than ever are participating in the School Breakfast Program and are receiving healthy breakfasts on schooldays. We have made real progress in making sure that students who are eligible receive breakfast. The School Breakfast Program, along with the National School Lunch Program, are critically important antihunger programs that ensure that our most vulnerable children don't go hungry.

    Mr. Speaker, there is truth to the old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Research shows that students who eat healthy breakfasts have improved test scores, miss fewer days of school, and make fewer trips to the nurse's office; but for many students, they begin their schooldays on an empty stomach, with the last meal eaten having been yesterday's school lunch. Monday mornings are especially difficult for students from families who are struggling to put food on their tables at home. They may have gone the entire weekend without eating a full or a balanced meal. Recent data from the Census Bureau show that one in five children received SNAP, or food stamp benefits, last year. Too many of our children don't know where their next meals will come from, making the meals they count on in school all the more important.

    Our economy is still recovering from the Great Recession, and economic gains are uneven, especially among low-income families. Too many families are still operating with tight family budgets and are struggling to pay the bills and to put enough nutritious food on the table. I am sure that all of us can relate to the hectic morning rush to get kids and parents out the door on time in the mornings, especially when both parents are working to try to make ends meet.

    Mr. Speaker, one of the best attributes of the School Breakfast Program is the flexibility the schools have to design programs that work for their own students and their own schools. The FRAC reports highlight a number of ways that school districts have successfully made the School Breakfast Program work for them: Some schools have breakfast in the classroom, where the students can eat healthy breakfasts at their desks while getting ready for the day. School districts with a high proportion of low-income students can qualify for a community eligibility provision, by which all students in the school can receive free breakfasts and lunches. Still other schools serve a traditional breakfast in the cafeteria at the start of the day.

    Regardless of the model used, the School Breakfast Program ensures that students, especially low-income students, are ready to learn and aren't distracted by hunger.

    The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 provided many important updates to the School Breakfast Program, including improving nutrition standards. Last year was the first year that the new nutrition standards were in place. Despite some of the buzz about students not liking the new meals, more students are participating in the School Breakfast Program than ever before. Not only are more students eating breakfast, but they are eating a healthier breakfast.

    Mr. Speaker, investing in our children by making sure they don't go hungry and by providing them with a world-class education is the best downpayment we can make for our future economic success. As this Congress begins the process of reauthorizing the school nutrition programs, we must continue to build upon the gains and participation and improvements in nutrition standards that we have made in the School Breakfast Program. It would be foolish to roll back nutrition standards just because special interests or some students don't like them.

    Today's FRAC reports show that we are doing a better job in making sure that kids start their day with a healthy breakfast but that there is more work to be done. For every 100 kids who receive free school lunches, only 53 receive school breakfasts. We must do more to expand the School Breakfast Program and increase participation so that all students who qualify for free and reduced priced lunches have the opportunity to receive healthy school breakfasts.

    {time} 1215 Mr. Speaker, we can and should do more to end hunger now, and expanding and strengthening the School Breakfast Program is an important step in that direction.


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