Lawmakers should extend free school breakfasts to all students

With the end of the 2015 legislative session in sight, there is much debate on how to invest the budget surplus, but no issue is more critical than eliminating hunger and food insecurity among Minnesota’s children.

According to Feeding America®, the nation’s largest domestic relief organization, 16 percent or over 205,000 children in the state of Minnesota were food insecure in 2012. Nearly 1 in 7 of our kids do not have secure access to food, and rates are even more alarming in rural areas.

Inadequate nutrition during a child’s formative years may impact his or her capacity to learn, physical and mental health, and ability to lead a fully productive and happy life. Currently our state’s kindergarten students are provided free school breakfast; the Legislature is considering the governor’s budget request to expand free school breakfast to all pre-K through third-graders, ensuring an additional 83,000 children start their day ready to learn. Offering breakfast at no charge increases participation in school breakfast programs and eliminates both the stigma and administrative cost of administering a reduced price meal. I call on the Legislature not only to support the governor’s request, but to expand free breakfast to all pre-K through grade-12 students. The state of Minnesota and its communities have invested heavily in schools and teachers, but can children, particularly adolescents, be expected to reach their full academic potential when distracted by hunger?

Any parent awakened by the wails of a ravenous baby or who marveled watching their teenager eat an entire box of cereal at one sitting know that children simply cannot focus and flourish when they are hungry. Why limit the benefits of a free breakfasts to our pre-K through third-graders? All our kids deserve access to the most important meal of the day.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Emily Sojourn on 04/03/2015 - 01:13 pm.

    Will parents become outdated and unnecessary?

    I am very much a liberal, so it’s odd that I will be critical of an idea to feed hungry children but I have a couple of questions.

    First: isn’t this the kind of program that gets axed immediately when the economy isn’t so robust? This strikes me as being a short term fix.

    Second: doesn’t it seem like the line between a school’s responsibility and a parent’s responsibility is shifting yet again?

    I understand that the first schools were created when parents worked too much to home-school their children. I understand that intellectual growth has never been the singular focus of schools. Morality and religious growth were stressed in the earliest of schools. Fast forward to my generation and beyond when schools took on the responsibility to teach the things polite society used to feel were the parents’ responsibility: sex, drugs, hygiene, personal finance, emotional well-being and mental health.

    And even though teachers have always been aware of and have reached out to students without proper nutrition or clothing, it bothers me to think that yet again we are institutionalizing another basic parental responsibility: feeding one’s child.

    What we are doing to future generations by outsourcing parental duties to institutions? Are we teaching them that the two people who gave them life are basically impotent to provide for them and that they have to go to groups of comparative strangers in institutions for all their needs?

    Is it possible that “parents” will become outdated and unnecessary? I’m not joking— I’m serious. Is it possible that the it-takes-a-village concept will grow? Aren’t there herd animals that raise all offspring communally and are humans heading in the same direction?

    If you read this comment thinking that I have a bias one way or another, you’re wrong. I may have started out tsk-tsking about unprepared parents but the more I see how society is shifting away from the family unit, the more I find myself accepting that this is the way things might turn out.

    I’m not sure. But as a teacher who teaches those at the lowest end of the social spectrum, I frequently play the parent far more than I play the teacher.

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