Most of us have heard many times during our lifetime about the importance of breakfast, namely that it is the most important meal of the day. We know that this is fairly accurate but as we have matured, we have learned how to skip it when we are under pressure or running behind in schedule. We know we can hold out until brunch or lunch. However, that is not true for kids. Kids need breakfast and if they don’t get it, real damage is done to their learning potential.
The Austin American Statesman had a really sad column by two writers from the Center for Public Policy Priorities located here in Austin. The authors, Rachel Cooper and Jonathan Louis, pointed out that despite the importance of a good breakfast for all children during their formative years, there are large numbers of them who do not receive it. There are many reasons, most important of which is that there is no food at home. There is also the fact that some families are not as organized as they should be and don’t take care of everything needed in the morning. Finally, some of the school buses come so early that children don’t get a chance to eat breakfast.
The Center points out that we are now in a situation that if we utilized the resources that are at our fingertips, our public schools could make free breakfast available to everyone not just low-income kids. From first-class studies we have learned that eating breakfast can make a big difference. We’ve learned that eating breakfast leads to increased attendance, improved math scores, graduation rates soar, tardiness declines and classroom behavior problems fall dramatically.
Even though some of our schools do have the cafeteria open in the morning and serve breakfast, many of our children do not take advantage of it because of the stigma since at the present time only children who qualify as poverty level families are able to go into the cafeteria and eat. Our state representatives are trying to improve the situation. Eddie Lucio, a Democrat of Brownsville, and Eddie Rodriguez of Austin have proposed legislation that would increase the number of children eating breakfast by simply providing breakfast at no charge to all students on campuses where 80% of the students come from families with such low income that they can qualify for free or reduced lunch. If their bill gets enacted by the Legislature, it will be a dramatic contribution to the improved education of our children.
Let’s hear it for the two Eddies.
There is another issue and that is that social spending is disproportionately in favor of the aged in our society and the children are frequently in many different areas shortchanged. The fact is that we old-timers know how to take care of ourselves. That is all right but we shouldn’t do it at the expense of hurting our children’s education.