Children do best in school when they arrive for the day ready to learn and one of the most important things a kid can do in the morning to prepare for school is to start the day off with breakfast. It used to be that most kids had a family breakfast at home in the mornings, but both the rise in food insecurity and the number of children with both parents in the workforce have reduced the likelihood of kids receiving a morning meal. In 2012, 1 in 8 Nebraska households was considered food insecure, meaning that they don’t always know where their next meal is coming from, and almost 2/3 of Nebraska kids had all available parents in the workforce.
Schools have a resource that they can leverage to help students start the day ready to learn. It’s the federal school breakfast program. Unfortunately, Nebraska has not been using this resource to its full potential, currently ranking 49th in the nation for the number of eligible kids participating in the breakfast program.
This school year, thanks to a change in federal law, some Nebraska schools will have a new option to help increase the number of kids being fed called community eligibility. Through community eligibility, high poverty schools can start serving free meals to all students. This increases the administrative efficiency of the program and reduces the stigma that kids eating free or reduced price school meals often face. In states where community eligibility has been tested, it has also improved participation rates in the school breakfast program.
Hungry kids are less likely to be able to focus on their classroom work and can have poorer health. We need to do a better job as a state of using all of our available resources to address child hunger and we hope that Nebraska schools who are eligible will consider taking up this new option to help ensure that more of or school kids are starting their day off with the benefits that breakfast can provide.