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Push to Get More Breakfast Programs in Minnesota Schools

PHOTO: A new initiative is underway, to get more Minnesota children who receive free or reduced priced lunch to also take part in breakfast programs. Photo credit: USDA

PHOTO: A new initiative is underway, to get more Minnesota children who receive free or reduced priced lunch to also take part in breakfast programs. Photo credit: USDA


March 14, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A lot of children in Minnesota start the school day hungry, and a new initiative is aimed at making sure they get fed.

Many of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price breakfast, said Jason Langworthy, outreach coordinator at Children's Defense Fund Minnesota, but they either aren't taking advantage or their school currently doesn't offer breakfast.

"Children's Defense Fund, in cooperation with Hunger Free Minnesota, is really seeking to try to address the underutilized school breakfast program," he said, "and really trying to help close the missing meal gap and try to get more students and more schools to utilize that school breakfast program."

The school breakfast initiative is part of Hunger Free Minnesota's goal to provide 100 million additional meals annually to help fight hunger in the state.

Increasing the number of children who take part in school breakfast programs also would help support the local economy, Langworthy said, because a majority of the funding would come through the federal government.

"We're talking millions of dollars here that could go to farmers, to Minnesota companies that are supplying breakfast," he said. "Right now, about $20 million is being left on the table for these Minnesota businesses, and it's about $40 million that's being left on the table for school districts. These are funds that are there. They're available. They're just being underutilized."

A number of schools in Minnesota have added breakfast programs in recent years. Langworthy said that includes a variety of models, including the traditional scenario where children are served and eat in the cafeteria.

"It could be a grab-and-go model for high schools or middle schools where, as they come in off the buses, they're grabbing a breakfast and then they're eating it at their lockers," he said, "or having breakfast delivered to first-period classes so that students are eating and continuing that curriculum time."

Studies have found that children who eat breakfast, compared with those who skip the morning meal, perform better at school, record higher test scores and are absent or late less often.

More information is online at cdf-mn.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN
 

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