AUSTIN, Texas — Schools in Texas do a pretty good job reaching children in need with their breakfast programs, but there is still a lot of room for growth. The Lone Star State ranks seventh best in the nation, but Celia Cole, CEO of the Texas Food Bank Network, says thousands still arrive to class hungry every day.
"If we did better, we could really boost academic achievement in our low-income student population, and at the same time bring in about $64 million more in annual federal aid."
Right now, about 60 percent of low-income Texas kids in the school lunch program also receive breakfast. The extra $64 million would come if that figure were raised to 70 percent.
Cole says mom was right when she always said how important breakfast is; it's even more vital for those kids in families who don't always know where their next meal will come from, she adds.
"There's been lots of research to show that breakfast participation improves school attendance and behavior; it boosts learning and test scores; it improves kids' health. If we want to increase academic achievement in low-income Texas school children, we can do it by boosting breakfast participation."
The biggest obstacle to increasing the number of children in the school breakfast program, Cole says, is logistics.
"It's simply served too early. They don't get there in time to eat it before classes start. So what a number of school districts in Texas and many more around the nation have experimented with is 'If we make breakfast part of the school day and not something that kids have to arrive early for, will we increase participation?' What the research shows is 'yes.'"
Legislation will be introduced this session to require in-classroom breakfasts in very low-income school districts in the state, Cole adds.