SAINT PAUL, MN – State Senator Alice Johnson’s (DFL-Spring Lake Park) legislation to provide a universal and nutritious breakfast for all Minnesota students was heard in the Senate Education Committee on March 12. The legislation ensures the full cost of breakfast in schools is covered by state and federal funds starting in 2015.
According to Johnson, food has a profound impact on the ability to learn. No matter how well teachers are prepared to teach, students can’t learn if they are hungry. Health and education are intertwined and addressing school nutrition is one way to close the achievement gap. “One way the state can make a profound impact for these students is providing a free and universal breakfast for every student every day,” Sen. Johnson said.
In Minnesota, only 39 percent of the breakfasts that are available to students are actually served. Whether due to social stigma or other barriers, students are going hungry in the morning. “Giving all kids a healthy breakfast at school will break down the stigma of being recognized as low income students as presently only children living in a household meeting the federal income guidelines are eligible for free breakfast,” Sen. Johnson said.
Minnesota loses out on millions in federal funds because of our low breakfast participation rates. By working to increase participation, Minnesota can take advantage of the federal funding.
Research by the University of Minnesota, the Children’s Defense Fund, Hunger Free Minnesota, National Dairy Council and other organizations show that school breakfast has many benefits beyond simply alleviating short-term hunger. Students who routinely eat breakfast at school:
• Perform better academically;
• Have better attendance records;
• Have fewer behavioral problems; and
• Fewer visits to the nurses office
“In the long term, these positive results will help close the achievement gap and increase graduation rates,” Senator Johnson said. “This is a very good return on our investment and will translate into a stronger workforce, higher incomes and lower rates of unemployment.”