DENVER – It’s been called the most important meal of the day, and now Colorado lawmakers are considering a bill which would make sure schoolchildren get a healthy breakfast every day.
The bill is known as “Breakfast After the Bell.” It would require schools that have at least 70 percent of pupils who qualify for free or reduced lunches to serve breakfast after the first bell of the day.
Cathy Underhill, executive director of Hunger Free Colorado, said the state traditionally doesn’t take advantage of federal school breakfast and lunch programs, even though Colorado has invested heavily in education reform and improving classroom instruction.
“We can have the best teachers in the best classrooms with the best training and technology, but if they’re standing in front of a room full of hungry kids, we are simply not going to see the return on investment,” Underhill declared.
According to Hunger Free Colorado, nearly 85,000 children would qualify for the free or reduced-cost breakfasts.
Critics worry about the time the in-class breakfasts would take from the school day, but the program does give schools the option as to how and when the breakfasts would be served. And the state’s smallest schools would be exempt from the program.
Leslie Nichols, a teacher at Plateau Valley Schools in Collbran, supports the bill. She said kids who don’t eat breakfast can’t concentrate during the school day.
“The process of obtaining food should not be cumbersome for anyone, and certainly not for children,” Nichols said. “They’re typically in positions where they have absolutely no control over the cards they’ve been dealt and no control over their circumstances.”
Cathy Underhill said studies show breakfast offers children benefits in the classroom.
“Eating breakfast is linked to higher math scores, higher academic achievement, lower truancy, lower absenteeism, fewer visits to the school nurse, and better behavior in the classroom,” she said.
She added that the federal funds have already been committed to the program, so it’s in Colorado’s best interest to take advantage of the money.
Information on the program can be found at HungerFreeColorado.org.