Last school year Texas’ school cafeterias served an astonishing 300 million breakfasts. But remarkably, that only covered 60 percent of the students who received free or reduced price lunches during the same year. This means that nearly one million of Texas’ low-income children who qualify for breakfast are not receiving it each day.
The School Breakfast Program is a crucial part of many children’s day, providing the nutrition they need to focus and succeed in class. Teachers report increased behavioral problems and decreased participation in class from those children who have not had a wholesome breakfast.
Legislators will have the opportunity to make a significant improvement in the number of breakfasts served in high-need schools in this session with Universal Breakfast legislation. CPPP and other advocates will support legislation which requires schools with 80 percent or more of their students eligible for free or reduced-price meals to provide breakfast at no charge to all students.
Schools already implementing a Universal Breakfast program find it increases the financial viability of their school nutrition programs. The principle of ‘economies of scale’ comes to play in Universal Breakfast model, meaning as output increases the average cost per breakfast decreases, allowing school nutrition programs to cover costs without relying on their school’s limited budget to supplement their operations. Universal Breakfast would also significantly benefit those families above 185 percent of the poverty line, the cut off for reduced-price meals, as many children in high-need schools do not qualify for free or reduced-price meals, but their families still struggle to cover their basic needs.
This legislation comes at no significant cost to the state, as it is a federally funded program, but would serve as a powerful tool in assuring Texas’ low-income students are set up for success in the classroom and beyond.