Increasing school breakfast participation benefits us all

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The article “Districts Trying to Increase Crowd for Most Important Meal” (March 2) illustrates the sad reality of being able to “lead to water, but not forcing to drink.”

School districts receive significant subsidy dollars when they help feed financially vulnerable students. This includes lunches and a less-frequently used school breakfast program.

The article states that “fewer than half of students eligible for free school breakfasts” take advantage of the program. This is disappointing on many levels.

Studies show that students who eat school breakfast have better attendance and 17.5 percent higher math scores than those who skip breakfast. They are 20 percent more likely to graduate, which, in turn, enables them to earn an average of $10,000 more annually than nongraduates. Food insecurity also causes poor birth outcomes, poor physical and mental health outcomes and childhood obesity.

Pennsylvania ranks 39th in the country for school breakfast participation. While 85 percent of our schools offer both lunch and breakfast, only 44 percent of eligible children take advantage of breakfast. This caused Pennsylvania to lose large amounts of federal funding.

To improve participation, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has launched the Pennsylvania School Breakfast Challenge, offering strategies like “Breakfast in the Classroom,” “Grab and Go Breakfast” and “Second Chance Breakfast” (see www.paschoolbreakfast.org.)

I applaud the local school districts that have entered the Pennsylvania School Breakfast Challenge. But regardless of which schools are the top finishers in May, everyone wins when we — students, teachers and whole school communities — improve our school breakfast programs and support good student nutrition.

With any luck, more schools will offer breakfasts and try to increase participation in this important meal, and more students will avail themselves of school breakfasts. This would be a “win-win” situation. May we have more winners!

REV. PAUL L. LUBOLD
Ross


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