SRC Testimony given April 27, 2017 – Access to Breakfast
Good Afternoon, I am here on behalf of Parents United for Public Education to speak in support of Access to Breakfast.
Of course, we do not agree with current White House administration who has stated there were not outcomes to defend free and reduced lunch programs in our nation’s schools. The evidence is overwhelming that these programs work as designed. We only need to speak with teachers who know firsthand that hungry children cannot learn. We can positively affect the possibility of increased education ensuring that our children start their day with access to high quality breakfast programs in school.
Addressing hunger in our schools has been linked with improved academic outcomes, better diets, lower rates of student obesity, fewer visits to the nurse, decreased tardiness and absenteeism, and disciplinary problem.
2015-16, in the place with the highest level poverty and deep poverty among large cities, Philadelphia’s schools feeds breakfast to 38 low income children for every 100 participating children (38%). The goal set by Food Action and Action Center is 70%. Nationally, districts that are exceeding the standards utilize the most effective strategies:
- offering breakfast “after the bell” – having breakfast in the classroom during morning announcements, while attendance is being taken.
- Grab and Go breakfast carts allowing students to eat on their way to class
- Second chance breakfast –give students the option for a healthy breakfast offered after homeroom or 1st period when a student may not have been hungry.
There are several obstacles to participating in free breakfast programs including late buses, long morning commutes, tight family budgets, and stigma of those who get the “free food”. Within our schools, there is a disconnection between the policy and practice of how access to breakfast occurs – and children suffer. Children have to get to school early and may not have the ability to do. In Philadelphia school district, it has not been clear that late arriving students have the opportunities to access and eat their school breakfast. That decision is left to the principals. It would be helpful for clear direction from district administration to ensure that all who would benefit from access to breakfast are able to. By incorporating breakfast in the school day, the stigma of “those free food” kids will be vastly reduced making it clear that all students would benefit from a high quality breakfast to get ready to learn.
39 Philadelphia schools are meeting or exceeding the 70% goal. A lot can be learned from the best practices set by school communities like Hackett, Muniz -Marin, Lawton, and Duckrey.
If the School District of Philadelphia was able to achieve the breakfast goal of 70 low income children fed for 100 children participating (70%), the district would benefit from over $2.5 million in additional federal funding. This is money that could be spent to preserve the Eat Right Now program and maintain the 10 dedicated knowledgeable nutrition educators. Or, it could help settle a fair and equitable teacher contract. How about that?
We are asking district administration to align policy and practice with increased diligence in prioritizing that Philadelphia’s school children are able to access breakfast and lunch programs.
Dr. Robin Roberts, PT DPT, MBA
Parents United for Public Education
Also see the research by Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) on school breakfast after the bell.
Addendum: Dr. William Hite asked for any information about school children who have not been able to access their breakfast. Please send him an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.